The Post-Journal

Polechetti Guides Fredonia to Brink of Title

Sometimes one of the best decisions a coach can make is to know when to pull back, take a deep breath, analyze the situations and, well, not “over-coach.”

That’s precisely the approach Dave Polechetti took this spring, and the decision to “take the pedal off the metal” nearly landed the Fredonia Lady Hillbillies the state’s biggest softball prize.

“I think our expectations going into the year were that we’d have a chance to advance through the sectionals,” said Polechetti, who just concluded his 17th season as softball coach at Fredonia. “The previous season we lost in the sectional championship, but we were young and we returned eight of nine starters. We thought we’d have a good chance to at least repeat that.”

It just took a while to get up to speed.

The Lady Hillbillies lost to arch-rival Dunkirk and were upended by Falconer early in their Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 schedule. A season that began with so much promise was quickly heading in the wrong direction. And when Fredonia lost to the Lady Marauders a second time and it no longer had a shot at the division championship, it might have been easy for the girls to pack it in.

Polechetti wouldn’t let that happen.

“The first thing I told the girls after the second Dunkirk loss was, ‘Take tomorrow off and come back fresh,’ knowing that we have loftier goals. We had the sectional to look forward to. We didn’t lose another game until the state final.”

In fact, the Lady Hillbillies won 10 straight games after Polechetti’s “team time out” and knocked off Section 4 powerhouse Susquehanna Valley before falling, 2-0, in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B title game in Binghamton.

“It was a great experience for the kids and for the school,” Polechetti said. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to maybe get back there in the next couple of years.

Losing only three seniors, Fredonia certainly will have that chance, particularly with Katie Bartkowiak and Marah Dann returning to share pitching duties. Bartkowiak, a second-team all-state and a first team All-Western New York selection, is also a Post-Journal all-star this year.

“This was really a big team effort,” said Polechetti, who praised the efforts of assistant coach John Bongiovanni and scorekeeper/instructor Bob Sievert. “The kids did a great job.”

Of course, success breeds success.

Polechetti said many players on his team won the 2006 Little League softball state championship and the girls are looking to repeat this summer.

Polechetti, who is also the school’s boys’ varsity basketball coach, knows a little about playing at such a high level. He took the 1993-94 basketball team to the state Final Four in Glens Falls, where it lost in the semi-finals.

Two trips to the states, two near misses.

And, by the way, two Post-Journal Coach-of-the Year awards in two different sports.

“I’ve been fortunate in my coaching career to make it to the states in basketball and softball,” he said. “We get closer each time.”

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