After head coach steps down, Sewickley Academy softball team keeps rolling

Friday, April 19, 2019 | 8:48 PM

Sewickley Academy’s softball team didn’t have much time to process the news that Win Palmer was stepping down after 14 seasons as coach.

The Panthers had an afternoon game on the same day he told them he was going to dedicate more of his time to the athletic department.

Few words were spoken when the new co-head coaches, Heather Border and Shannon Rankin, gave players an opportunity to express themselves before warm-ups.

“There was sadness,” senior Alyssa Winters said. “It’s sad to see (Palmer) leave the team, but I feel we were still confident in our abilities and in our other coaches who we’ve been with for years. They’ve always been awesome and supportive.”

Sewickley Academy’s response to Palmer’s departure was loud and clear on the field with a 18-0 win over Cornell.

“I’m glad we got that game under our belt, so we could all get used to each other in a different way than we had before,” Border said. “It was definitely a good way to start off on the right foot.”

The team meetings held after Palmer’s exit have been valuable in moving forward.

“Coach Palmer definitely built a great program, but I’m also excited for our two new head coaches who are amazing women who believe in us,” senior Kendall Lightcap said. “They definitely have been very open to communication and input from us, so I feel like that’s been important. It shows they trust us.”

There are a lot of good things to talk about for the 5-1 Panthers.

Junior pitcher Alexis Barlock has thrown three shutouts in the team’s last four games. The lineup produces 14.7 runs per game. And senior Theresa Wilson is having a monstrous season at the plate with 19 hits in 23 at-bats.

That’s good for an astronomical .826 batting average with seven extra-base hits.

“I told Theresa it’s her year,” Winters said. “She was overdue for a huge season, and I’m so happy for her. She’s such a great athlete. The stats just reflect all of the hard work she puts in.”

Wilson’s biggest hit of the season was a home run against Bishop Canevin, the team’s second game after Palmer’s departure. Her clutch solo shot tied the score 10-10 in the sixth inning.

Senior Alina Mattson followed Wilson with a hit, and junior Michon Levine drove her in with an RBI double. Sewickley Academy won 12-10 for a comeback victory.

“It was a really solid, seven-inning game, and that’s what Coach Rankin and I expect,” Border said. “We’ve got some great players and big bats. They’re doing everything the right way despite some other changes to our team.”

Levine moved from the outfield to catcher, a position she is still learning.

“Michon stepped up to catch for us, and she is doing an amazing job,” Lightcap said. “She’s been a rock behind the plate. Her willingness to be our catcher has been really important for us.”

Lightcap also returned to the team after not being able to play in 2018 because of an injury.

She decided to come back late in the preseason after consulting with doctors and talking to coaches and teammates. She has played well at third base while also recording 18 hits in 26 at-bats, a .692 average.

“I’ve loved coming back, and the team has been awesome,” Lightcap said. “It’s not easy to be where we are right now, but we’re putting in the time to be successful so I’m excited to see what we’re able to do.”

The hits, shutouts and wins likely will continue for Sewickley Academy, but Border and Rankin reminded them of Palmer’s motto before their first game without him.

“They were stoic at first and didn’t say much,” Border said. “We didn’t have as much pep as we normally do during warm-ups, so we brought them back in and told them to have fun. That’s what (Palmer) would want. His mantra was always, ‘Work hard, and go have fun,’ and they have done that.”


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