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Young softball roster doesn't faze Sewickley Academy coach

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

While a youthful roster can cause stress for some coaches, Sewickley Academy softball coach Win Palmer is embracing it.

His Panthers have only two seniors and one junior on the roster, but that isn't stopping them from looking to qualify for the WPIAL Class A playoffs for a second straight year.

“We are very excited for this year and the future,” Palmer said. “We have the pieces in place and feel we can battle for a playoff spot like last year. We are rock solid for the next four or five years.”

The Panthers No. 1 pitcher will be freshman Savannah Henry. The youngster plays for a travel team so she has experience to go along with her ability on the mound.

“She throws a nice fastball and has a wonderful changeup,” Palmer said. “She moves the ball around nicely. She has great tools and works hard.”

Sarah Manzinger also will see time as a pitcher and offers a strong arm and quick release, according to Palmer. But the sophomore's true contribution will come as a catcher, a position she played last season when she allowed just three stolen bases.

“I think the defense all starts behind the plate,” Palmer said. “In my opinion, we have a top pitcher in the WPIAL, not just our section.”

Freshman Megan Kyne also will be a pitching option but will likely be used more on the junior varsity level.

The youthful pitching staff will benefit from several returning players around the diamond. The team's lone junior, Mackenzie Pryor, returns at first base, a position she received all-section honors for last year. Senior Camdin Bartholomew will be back at shortstop.

“Kat Goebel will be back at third base after an outstanding rookie year,” Palmer said. “Camdin's younger sister, Alexa, started in right field last season and will be moved to second base this season.”

Palmer said his squad lacks a true power hitter but will make up for it with several solid batters, including Goebel and Manzinger, who both hit near .400 last year.

“I felt we were streaky last year,” Palmer said of the 9-7 club. “We would pile up the hits on some teams and struggle to hit against others. We want more consistently solid at bats.”

The Panthers will move to Section 1-A this season but will continue playing many of their Section 3-A rivals from last year, including Cornell, North Catholic, Northgate and Sto-Rox. Avella will also play in the new section, as well as Bishop Canevin and Burgettstown, which both dropped down from Class AA.

“Playoffs are definitely the overall goal,” Palmer said. “There are a lot of unknowns because we don't know a lot about Avella, Bishop Canevin or Burgettstown. Sto-Rox has a good team and will get one of the spots. So, basically there will be seven teams playing for two spots. If we can make the playoffs again, it will be a wonderful accomplishment.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com.

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