After slow start, Sewickley Academy softball team making playoff push
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The start of the 2013 season was one to forget for the Sewickley Academy softball team.
The Panthers began with a 1-4 record and were outscored 55-24.
But the coaches introduced a simple phrase to help calm the young roster during games — next play.
“The coaching staff has been preaching it,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “And the team is really buying in. We want to keep looking at the next play. Early in the season emotions ran too high. But everyone is now more even keel.”
Since the rough start, the Panthers have gone 5-1 and have battled their way into playoff contention. The team got its biggest win of the season last week as it beat Bishop Canevin, 3-2.
In the bottom of the first, sophomore Allexa Bartholomew sent a single into left field to bring two runs home. It was a strong start, especially after the Crusaders scored a 15-1 decision over Sewickley Academy earlier this season.
“It definitely made us feel more comfortable,” senior Lauren Gedeon said. “But we have been up 2-0 before and lost. We knew we didn't have total security, but it helped get momentum swung our way.”
Sewickley Academy added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth as an Olivia Henry single to center drove home junior Mackenzie Pryor.
But the Crusaders came storming back in the top of the fifth. Alexis Pilch connected on a double to the left-center gap to drive home two runs and cut the deficit to one.
But the Panthers defense came through in the final two innings, even after Bishop Canevin loaded the bases in the sixth.
“We lost to them pretty bad earlier this season, so it is exciting knowing how much we improved from the last game,” senior Camdin Bartholomew said. “It is exciting for us to get ahead and win the game. It is a milestone for us.”
Savannah Henry got the win on the mound for the Panthers. The freshman has compiled a 6-4 record this season while recording 42 strikeouts.
“She has gotten so much better,” Palmer said. “She was a 14-year-old pitcher used to pitching against 14- or 15-year olds. It was a big jump pitching against 17- or 18-year olds. But she has gotten used to it. Our entire defense is better.”
While the win over the experienced Crusaders showed the progress of the youthful Panthers, it more importantly kept them alive in the playoff hunt.
Burgettstown controls Section 1-A with an 11-1 mark and with two games left, has clinched a playoff spot. But the last two spots are very much open.
Sto-Rox entered the week in second with an 8-2 record, while Bishop Canevin was third with a 7-2 mark. The Vikings and Crusaders played yesterday, Wednesday, and Bishop Canevin also played Burgettstown this week. Results are unavailable prior to this edition's deadline.
While the Panthers need some help, they are not losing hope.
“Last year, we got a taste of the playoffs,” Camdin Bartholomew said. “We want to go back. I would be thrilled if we made it.”
But if Sewickley Academy comes up short of its playoff hopes, Palmer can't complain. The experience the 14 underclassmen are getting right now will pay dividends in the future.
“I love the fact that we are in the stretch run, and we are competing for a spot in the playoffs,” Palmer said. “I don't know if we are going to make it, but kids learn so much from being under pressure. Our best ball is still coming.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.
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