Freeport softball standout Sydney Selker headed to Akron after recruiting plans change

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Wednesday, August 9, 2023 | 5:08 PM


St. Francis’ loss is Akron’s gain.

Freeport senior Sydney Selker verbally committed to the Red Flash softball team in January, but a coaching change in June restarted the recruiting process for the Yellowjackets standout.

After a whirlwind three-week process to find a new collegiate home, Selker settled in with the Zips in the Mid-American Conference.

She said she couldn’t be happier with her decision.

“I knew it was right for me,” Selker said. “When I heard the offer, I couldn’t pass it up. It was pretty nerve-wracking for those couple of weeks to see what would happen. I had a lot of people reassuring me things would work out for the best, and it did. After I committed, that sigh of relief came back.”

Jessica O’Donnell, who was St. Francis’ softball coach for five seasons, left Loretto in mid-June for Kent State.

“We just got done playing a super late (club softball) game at a tournament, and my friend texted me and said she saw the St. Francis coach had left and was wondering what were my future plans,” Selker said.

“I was stunned. I was like, ‘What is this?’ I was freaking out a little bit and was thinking, ‘What does that mean for me’? I had some questions, no doubt.

The next day, the athletic director at St. Francis emailed all of the 2024 recruits to tell them what was going on with O’Donnell leaving.

“He said that for us ’24s, our scholarships would be honored, and that was a sigh of relief. But he also said he totally understood if we wanted to reopen our recruitment process if St. Francis wasn’t an option anymore.”

Selker said she gave it some thought.

“The assistant coach at St. Francis who also was the pitching coach (Elysse Petrie), she was the one who recruited me. She and I got along really well. I wanted to see if she might get the head coaching job at St. Francis, so I was kind of holding off a little bit. But then I heard she applied for the assistant position at Kent State and is now there.”

That is when Akron came to the table.

“Other colleges knew what was going on, and they had shown a lot of interest in me just from speaking to my (club) coach at tournaments,” Selker said.

Selker said she didn’t know much about the Akron program before her second chance at the recruiting process.

“Akron’s head coach (Craig Nicholson) saw me play a couple weekends in a row,” Selker said. “He asked my coaches if I was going stay committed to St. Francis or keep my options open. I ended up emailing the coach, and we started talking. We talked on the phone, and we set up a visit.”

That visit was July 13. Things went really well, and she verbally committed that day.

“It was an instant connection with everything,” Selker said. “When I stepped on campus, I was impressed. It was very remodeled and looked really nice. They play in the MAC, so that was huge. I loved the coaches. There were all super welcoming with everything.”

It should be an interesting dynamic for Selker when Akron and Kent State meet on the softball diamond as the two schools, separated by 15 miles, both play in the MAC.

Selker said she wouldn’t have ruled out investigating the Kent State program if that presented itself as an option, but she said Akron acted quickly and won her over.

The summer of change followed a somewhat frustrating spring high school season cut short because of injury.

Selker played 10 games and fared well in the pitching circle and at the plate. She was at shortstop for a nonsection game with Knoch when she collided with a teammate as both went to catch a pop-up behind second base. The collision caused Selker’s head to whip back.

The effects from the whiplash caused her to miss the remainder of the season.

“I wasn’t happy with what happened because I am a competitor and I want to be out there with my team,” Selker said. “But there was a sigh of relief to know I was only a junior, and that I will come back even stronger next year as a senior.”

Despite missing seven full games and part of an eighth, Selker’s body of work during the time she was on the field brought her Valley News Dispatch second-team all-star honors. She batted .360 (9 of 25) with a double, a triple, two home runs and eight RBIs.

She also finished 4-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 44.1 innings. She struck out 77 and walked 32.

Selker again is expected to have a big role in the Freeport girls volleyball team’s attempt to defend their WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A titles.

Freeport will go for its third WPIAL title overall as it also captured the 2021 Class 3A crown.

Official preseason practices begin Monday.

“It is very exciting right now,” Selker said. “My senior year is here. One thing I love so much about the team is how we get along on and off the court. We hang out a lot outside of volleyball. We are successful because we get along and are ready to work hard and play well for each other and the team as a whole.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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