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Sewickley Academy softball sees similarities with first-round opponent

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's Sarah Mazinger keeps her eyes on the ball against Cornell on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.

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By Kevin Ritchart
Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

For the second straight year, the Sewickley Academy girls softball team has qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

The Panthers finished the regular season with a 9-7 record (9-5 in Section 1-A) and needed a comeback win over North Catholic in its final section game to get into the postseason tournament.

In Game 2 of a doubleheader on May 2, Sewickley Academy was down 12-6 heading into the seventh inning, but scored seven times in the last inning to earn a 13-12 win over North Catholic and a spot in the playoffs.

Sewickley Academy has a first-round matchup against Jeannette at 3 p.m. Thursday at Plum.

Coach Win Palmer sees a lot of similarities between his team and the Jeannette squad they'll face in the opening round.

“They started off slowly like us,” Palmer said. “But they've beaten some really good teams.”

Not playing until Thursday gave Palmer a chance to get back to the basics with his team during practice this week.

“The girls were disappointed that we weren't playing on Tuesday,” Palmer said. “But as coaches, we like (the extra days).

“It's great catch-up time. It's a good time to get back to working on fundamentals.”

Among the reasons for the Panthers' success this season is the growth of the relationship between freshman pitcher Savannah Henry and sophomore catcher Sarah Manzinger.

“They really didn't know each other before the season,” Palmer said of his young batterymates. “Now they're close. They work well together now as a tandem.”

For the most part, Manzinger call her own pitches during games.

“We might suggest pitches based on what a batter hit the last time up, but Sarah calls her own game,” Palmer said.

After a rocky start to the season, Henry has found her comfort zone on the mound. She enters postseason play with a 9-5 record and 60 strikeouts in 79 innings of work.

Offensively, the Panthers have learned to be more selective at the plate under hitting coach Heather Border's guidance.

“The girls are up there battling,” Palmer said. “Heather has been working with the girls on waiting until they get their pitch and swinging at pitches that are hittable.

“They just keep fouling it off until they get a pitch they like.”

That patience at the plate is leading to more walks as well, paced by senior shortstop Camdin Bartholomew's 14 free passes.

Manzinger posted a team-high 19 hits and a .404 batting average during the regular season. Manzinger and senior left fielder Laura Gedeon are tied for the team lead with 11 RBI apiece.

The defense behind Henry has been bolstered by sophomore Allexa Bartholomew's move from second base to right field.

“She's so aggressive, and she's always making plays out there,” Palmer said. “She brought back the confidence of the whole outfield.

“She's willing to do what it takes to win.”

Along with a desire to succeed, Palmer has enjoyed watching how much fun his girls are having this season.

“They're an upbeat, enthusiastic group,” Palmer said. “They're a very happy-go-lucky team, and they get excited for each other when they have success.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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