QV, Sewickley Academy softball expecting to improve

Friday, March 29, 2019 | 8:11 PM

With a wealth of returning starters, the Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy softball teams expect to improve.

That’s also where their similarities end.

Sewickley Academy advanced to the second round of the WPIAL playoffs in 2018, and Quaker Valley went winless.

Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said a little bit of luck and the development of his bench will be key to this season’s success.

“We’re excited with the leadership, skills and work ethic this team shows every day,” Palmer said. “If we stay healthy — and that’s really important — we have the potential to have a nice, long season. We have to be healthy, and we need everyone ready to step up. Depth in numbers is the same issue a lot of teams in our class face.”

Junior pitcher Alexis Barlock will return and log most of Sewickley Academy’s innings. She is a two-time all-section pick and has gone from a fastball-heavy pitcher as a freshman to a diverse veteran.

“We’re fortunate with our schedule where we have two games a week, so we’re staying away from running her into the ground,” Palmer said. “She’s a terrific player. She’s added a number of pitches. Her changeup, especially in high school softball, is dangerous. And she can now throw a good curve to complement her riser.”

Sewickley Academy has another two-time all-section player in senior Alyssa Winters, who plays first base and led the team in home runs and RBIs last season. Palmer expects senior center fielder and three-time all-section selection Theresa Wilson to have another “terrific” year.

Senior second baseman Alina Mattson, junior shortstop Maggie Goebel and senior third baseman Kendall Lightcap also will play together in the infield for the first time since 2017. Lightcap was out with an injury last season.

“We have so many talented and competitive players,” Palmer. “They are all multi-sport athletes and leaders on all of their teams, so we’re very lucky to have that here.”

Quaker Valley will look to its pair of returning pitchers to spark the team’s success. Sophomores Raelyn Boyer and Lily Eberlein form a dynamic combination.

“Lily is definitely more of a power house,” Quaker Valley coach Nicole Olson said. “I’m looking forward to seeing her up her speed this year and utilizing more of her pitches. Raelyn has a lot going for her. She has a large variety of pitches to choose from.”

Quaker Valley’s offense, Olson said, is loaded with power. Freshman Izzy DeGori could hold down the cleanup spot in the order from the first game.

“Izzy has a strong, smooth swing and makes great contact with the ball,” Olson said. “Honestly, there are five or six coming back that I know have gotten a lot stronger, and everyone else has made progress, too.”

Junior Sydney Persuit will be counted on as the team’s leader in her second year as a captain.

“She keeps everyone calm, collected and together, making sure we are always going toward the correct play,” Olson said. “She is a shortstop and catcher. She is a really strong communicator and sets an example for everyone else. She works hard, puts in extra time, and keeps everyone’s attitudes up.”

Quaker Valley is in the middle of a youth movement. The team doesn’t have a senior, and nine of its 14 players are sophomores or freshmen.

“We’re still really young like last year, but we definitely have a stronger team than in years past,” Olson said. “In our scrimmage against Rochester, we knew we had improved our pitching, our fielding and our offense, too. It’s tough to gauge a definitive prediction for the season, but I definitely feel we’re on the rise.”

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