Sewickley Academy pitcher Henry takes on added leadership responsibilities
Savannah Henry has performed well in her role as do-it-all pitcher for the Sewickley Academy softball team since she joined the squad as a freshman, collecting back-to-back all-section honors the past two seasons.
But this spring, the senior has additional responsibilities to handle when standing in the circle.
One of which is that, after the graduation of starting catcher Sarah Manzinger a year ago, Henry is picking her own pitches during games for the first time in a Sewickley uniform, according to coach Win Palmer.
It wasn't that the old system didn't work. Henry went 10-3 as a sophomore and 13-2 a year ago, helping Sewickley to a Section 1-A title in 2015, the program's first since it began in 2009.
“For the most part, I've pitched every single inning of every game,” she said.
And, barring injury, this work rate won't change this year. But adding a new aspect to her role still made sense.
During preseason, coach and player discussed how to move forward with pitch calling this season. Henry had familiarity with her new partner, Chandler White, who moved to catcher after starting at first base a year ago, through the travel circuit where they played the same positions, yet they had never done so together at the high school level.
Henry asked her coach what he thought she should do.
“Well, I see a big difference (from previous years),” Palmer said. “We now have a senior pitcher.”
Henry initially expressed surprise at what her coach was suggesting, he said, but she has taken it on eagerly, along with other new duties this season.
Nine seniors, six starters in the field and the designated hitter, graduated from that section championship group. And the two returning players, other than Henry, changed positions. So, the only senior on an inexperienced roster, she needs to direct the Panthers (1-1) in ways beyond her play.
“She's now clearly the leader of this team,” Palmer said.
The process of becoming comfortable with this reality is ongoing. Sewickley lost its season opener 16-5 vs. Western Beaver but then rebounded with a 10-1 win against Avella.
“You could tell Savannah was more used to calling her pitches and working with Chandler,” Palmer said.
Though there isn't any pressure to repeat in Section 1-A or return to the postseason, given how young the team is, Henry said she's not overlooking her role as veteran to her younger teammates. She realized some of her new duties during the fifth inning of the team's season opener against Western Beaver. The score was tied at three at the start, but Sewickley imploded and Western Beaver went on to win 16-5.
In past years, Henry entered a zone where she focused only on pitching when she took the field, but she can't afford to do that anymore.
“When Western Beaver started to score on us more and more, I could see people getting frustrated and I realized that would be the time I would need to say like ‘Hey, it's OK!' ” Henry said. “But I didn't know I would have to say that because I'm so used to the girls from last year always picking me up. And I realized that I have to get used to picking them up.”
Jasper Wilson is a freelance writer.