Sewickley Academy 3-sport athlete eager to fill expanded role on diamond next season

Saturday, July 15, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Jordan Smith is filled with inspiration for his 2023-24 senior year at Sewickley Academy.

Smith is a three-sport athlete, participating in baseball, basketball and golf. He will be a fourth-year starter in baseball as a pitcher/infielder.

“Jordan has grown as a young man and player here at Sewickley Academy and will be the leader of this team in his senior season,” SA coach Andrew Petruska said. “He has grown so much from his freshman year to his upcoming senior year and has truly embraced the mission statement at Sewickley Academy with ‘Sewickley Academy inspires and educates students to engage their hearts, mind, and hands to cultivate their full individual and collective potential in the service of a greater good.’

“Jordan will be a leader on and off of the baseball field, and that’s what we look for here at SA. Baseball is a game where you learn a lot about yourself and with losing six seniors, Jordan will learn a lot about himself and the team. I want Jordan to be a successful young man after his years here at SA as his future is very bright, and I am excited for that.”

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Smith lifts weights in the offseason and plays travel baseball with the Pittsburgh Diamond Dawgs. He pitches and plays first or third base as a member of the Dawgs’ 17U Gold team — all in preparation for the high school baseball season.

“I’m very excited for my senior year,” said Smith, a right-handed hurler. “I have the same expectations for myself and everyone else on the team as last year. I am expecting us to compete with every team we face and shoot high for the top of the section.

“I was very impressed with everyone on the team (this season). They have grown so much since last year, and the fighting spirit they had throughout the game really says a lot about who we are as a team.”

In 2023, Smith led the Panthers in on-base percentage (.641), RBIs (23) and stolen bases (13). He ended up second in batting average (.600), runs, hits, doubles and slugging percentage.

“I thought I met my expectations for this year,” Smith said. “Last year, I was more of a ‘base hit’ type of hitter. This year, I did way better at the plate with hitting a lot of extra-base hits.

“My pitching was also way better than last year, striking out more players and letting my defense take care of any hit balls. I usually use my fastball to find the zone and get ahead in the count. My fastball is my best pitch; it always gets the job done.”

On the mound, the soon-to-be 17-year-old Smith was 5-2 in 10 games and struck out 40 in 45.2 innings. He threw a team-high 711 pitches.

“Jordan was a workhorse,” Petruska said. “He played any position we asked of him; he played every infield position.”

Smith won the team award for outstanding player of the year. He will lead a group of six returning starters on next year’s club at Sewickley.

“Each player has his own role as every player, student and young man is different,” Petruska said. “I know (Smith) will be a great leader not only for his team but the school and community. My own kids look up to Jordan and all of these players.”

Smith said the graduated seniors may be tough to replace in toto.

“After losing all the seniors (to graduation), we will be short on players next year,” he said. “Hopefully, there will be some new players that we can add to the team.”

Smith has one sibling, an older sister named Sunayna, a 2017 graduate of West Allegheny, where she played softball. She attended Kent State for musical theater, graduated in 2021 and currently does musical theater in New York.

Smith has participated in basketball for three years and was a starter in the Panthers’ varsity backcourt in 2022-23. He also earned a starting job on the Sewickley boys varsity golf team last fall.

Smith received the baseball team’s most improved player award in 2022 thanks to his 39.1 innings pitched and 20 strikeouts.

“My biggest influence for baseball has been my dad (John) because he played baseball as a kid,” Smith said. “He and my mom (Shery) bought me everything I need for baseball and my dad taught me how to play.

“My favorite MLB player is Juan Soto because my dad is a big Washington Nationals fan and I used to watch the Nationals a lot with him.”

Also expected back for their senior season for the Panthers are Nolan Donnelly (P/3B) and (OF) Michael Woo, one of the team’s leading hitters this spring.

“Nolan Donnelly will get back into a lot of pitching since we did not use him as much this year,” Petruska said, “and will work in third or first depending on that game. Nolan is a very hard worker in all of his sports — baseball, basketball and golfing.

“Mikey Woo will bolster the outfield, hopefully in center, and he also will see time on the mound or work into one of the middle infield positions.”

Other returning players for SA will include juniors Will Straka (OF) and Andrew Colletti (OF/IF) and sophomores Billy Pietragallo (SS) and Amare Spencer, who was 3-0 in nine games on the mound and compiled a team-leading 3.00 ERA. Spencer also played second base.

“Billy Pietragallo did a great job in the outfield this past season,” Petruska said. “then moving to shortstop as a freshman was a big ask by the coaching staff, but he took it right on. We look for Billy to improve in the infield and outfield and cannot wait to see what he can bring to the team next year as a player and leader.

“And Will Straka will continue to see more innings in the rotation and work in one of the corners of the outfield or first base.”

Sewickley advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2023 and ended up 10-8 overall. The Panthers finished third with a 9-3 record in Section 3-A behind Eden Christian (11-1) and Bishop Canevin (10-2), which won the WPIAL championship.

“Our expectations for next season are going to be different as having only 13 players on a roster can be tough,” Petruska said. “We may lose a few players to other sports, and that is the tough part with a small school. The players that do come back to the 2024 team will work in the weight room, in the classroom, in the cage and on the field very hard this fall, winter and spring to put us back into contention for the section, playoffs and the golden prize of winning the WPIAL.

“Baseball is a very tough game and, yes, we want to win every time we go out there. But in the end, we are preparing these young men for their future outside of Sewickley Academy to make them the best young men possible.”

There is one more veiled factor that may add players to next year’s club.

“Our baseball field is being redone, so we hope that draws more players into the school and onto the team,” Petruska said, “but time will tell.”


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