When the Ithaca College softball team left the Empire 8 to join the Liberty League (beginning play in 2018), some wondered if such a move would change the fact that the Bombers often put up a good showing in conference play, then go on to make a strong run deeper into the postseason. By wrapping up the Liberty League schedule with an 11-1 season, the Bombers have, for the second year in a row, accomplished their primary goal of hosting the conference tournament, which will start this Thursday at Kostrinsky Field on South Hill.
In 2018, head coach Deb Pallozzi served notice that her 30th season would be one of the program’s most memorable when she led the Bombers to the Liberty League Championship, then on to the NCAA Division III Championships (in Oklahoma City) for the 12th time in program history. The Hall of Fame coach has guided the team to a national championship and has mentored 19 All-Americans, and is one of only a handful of softball coaches to surpass the 800-win mark.
I asked Pallozzi how important it is to the team to win the conference tournament, and she said, “It’s always good to win the title and get that automatic bid to the NCAAs. Leaving it up to someone else (via the at-large bid process) never makes for a good night’s sleep—and I know; I have been on both sides of it.”
Switching conferences has turned out to be a good move for IC, and in Coach Pallozzi’s words, “The Liberty League is actually a more competitive league now. There are a lot of good, young players coming up, and while the better competition is great for preparing us for the NCAAs, I will say that the travel is a little more challenging.”
When asked to give an overview of how the 2019 season has unfolded, Deb said, “I really like how strong the defense has been all year, and I love the fact that this team never gives up. When that’s the case, the game is never over until the last out.”
The top-seeded Bombers will take on the No. 4 seed Clarkson, while No. 2 Rochester and No. 3 RPI will square off in the other prelim. The elimination games will be played Friday, and the title game will take place on Saturday. More info is available at www.athletics.ithaca.edu.
Circling back on a few recent columns, I’d like to start out by offering an update on some changes that came my way regarding the schedule for the Ithaca Unified basketball team I wrote about last week.
The team will play (this Thursday) May 2, at home versus Lansing, then will travel to Elmira on May 7. Another home game will take place on May 9 (Johnson City), and on May 14, they travel to Dryden. May 16 will see another road trip (this time to Owego), and on May 20, a home game against Maine-Endwell will celebrate Senior Night. Ithaca Unified will close out the season on May 21 with another home game, this one against Union-Endicott. All home games will be played at 4:30 p.m. at Bliss Gymnasium.
Next, an update on my friend and local media legend Kevin English’s debut in the world of obstacle course racing. Kevin, as you may recall, decided at age 61 to have weight-loss surgery and kick his exercise routine into a much higher gear and reinvent himself. He lost 100 pounds over the course of several months, he made a commitment to compete in the Mud, Sweat & Cheers Bordoni 5K Extreme event, and when I woke up on Saturday morning and saw how wet and cold and potentially miserable the weather was, well, the level of respect I have for those stepping up to take part in the fine cause went from high to even higher. I reached out to Kevin after the race, and he told me, “Well, I did it! I am stinky, sweaty, tired and cold. Damn right, I earned it! Now, it’s time to rest, and soak.”
I love a good tale of reinvention and redemption. Well done, mi amigo.