Sewickley Academy baseball makes history
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The Sewickley Academy baseball team is making history this season.
After last week's WPIAL Class A playoff wins over Bishop Canevin, 6-4, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 4-2, the Panthers qualified for the semifinals for the first time in program history.
“(The players) have believed in the team all year long,” Sewickley Academy coach Andrew Heck. “It isn't about who starts the season 5-0. The playoffs are about who finished strong. We have developed as a team all season. And as a team, we have always believed in the goal of winning a WPIAL championship.”
The game against the Crusaders took two days to complete after rain soaked the field at Shaler and play was suspended in the bottom of the third inning May 12. The break in action may have benefited the Panthers as Bishop Canevin had cut into their lead and had two runners in scoring position.
“I looked at it as a positive,” senior Mike Manzinger said. “They had scored and had runners on second and third. I would say we were rattled. We used it as a timeout to collect ourselves. We knew we were a 13 seed that had a good chance to come out and shock people.”
A single to center field from Zach Cortese gave the Crusaders a 3-2 lead when play resumed on Tuesday. Bishop Canevin extended its lead to two in bottom of the fifth when Sam Smallhoover scored on a wild pitch. But Sewickley Academy took control in the top of the sixth as it scored four runs thanks to timely hits from Manzinger, John Nagel and Drew Zbihley.
The Panthers changed pitchers during the break in play from Joe Nagel to Sam Duerr, a move that largely kept the Crusaders' batters off balance.
“I couldn't be happier for (Duerr),” Heck said. “I call him our secret weapon. He is a guy I wish I would have thrown more last season. I know how good he is. Joe is a competitor but he threw 50 pitches the first day. I told him we have good arms behind you and (Duerr) was a senior itching to get on the mound.”
Duerr had four strikeouts in four innings. After a rough third inning, he held Bishop Canevin to one hit the rest of the game.
“I am content with how I paced the team to the win,” Duerr said. “But I cannot take credit for the win. All the players on the team really picked us up and played unbelievably. I am very excited for the team.”
Against OLSH, Drew Johnson threw 93 pitches with seven strikeouts and two walks in the win. The Panthers and Chargers were not strangers as they both compete in Section 5-A. Sewickley Academy recorded a 6-5 home win in the series on April 23 but fell on the road to OLSH, 4-3, on May 1.
The Panthers pounced on OLSH early in the rubber match as their first three batters — Manzinger, John Nagel and Joe Nagel — all got on base and scored.
“We should have taken two from them during the regular season,” Heck said. “The big thing for the game was to get solid pitching and (Johnson) did it for us. We got ahead and we're able to stay ahead.”
The playoff success this season is unparalleled for Sewickley Academy. In addition to being the team's first trip to the WPIAL semifinals, the win over Bishop Canevin was the first postseason victory for the program in more than 15 years.
“The change in mentality over the last two years in unbelievable,” Heck said. “The team has gone from the team who was supposed to lose to the best teams and win against the not as good teams. They are competing against everyone now.”
The Panthers have ensured themselves a shot at the PIAA tournament. By reaching the WPIAL semifinals, they will play in either the championship or consolation game next week.
While this is uncharted territory for Sewickley Academy, the team isn't going to just be happy with what they have achieved already.
“This really means a lot for our team, especially the seniors,” Manzinger said. “We have been through enough heartbreak for a soap opera. We know we are going to fight to the end from here on out. If you go out and give it your all, you'll have no regrets.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.