Sewickley Academy baseball meets lofty expectations with solid season

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Sunday, May 15, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Sewickley Academy baseball team had a firm foundation to build upon this season.

Junior shortstop Adin Zorn, senior third baseman Sajen Schuchert, sophomore first baseman Jordan Smith and juniors Nick Straka (catcher), Bennett Spencer (infield) and Nick Madison (outfield) were returning starters. Zorn, Schuchert, Smith and Spencer bolstered the pitching staff.

Top newcomers included Hudson Colletti, a junior outfielder, and three freshman outfielders — Laurence Topper, Nolan Donnelly and Andrew Colletti. Donnelly also joined the SA pitching staff.

The Panthers rang up an 8-2 record in Section 3-A, which was won by Eden Christian at 10-0.

“We had expectations for this season,” SA sixth-year coach Andrew Petruska said, “but I still think that we exceeded those expectations. We are getting better every day. Every guy on this team comes to practice getting better for this team and for themselves and that’s what makes this team special. Coach G (Anthony Garofalo) and I see the work they’ve put in, and we are very proud of them.”

The Panthers’ talent was on display throughout the spring months. After suffering a one-run loss in the season opener at Steel Valley, SA won eight of its next nine to move in contention for a section title.

SA won four close games and four blowouts during that span. At the end of April, the Panthers were averaging 8.7 runs per game.

Petruska lauded the efforts of underclassmen Straka, Smith and Madison.

“Nick Straka and Jordan Smith have had bounce-back seasons at the plate,” said Petruska, who is assisted by Garofalo. “They have helped not only with their bats but their leadership as well. Along with those two, Nick Madison has been a great leader for some of the younger guys in the outfield.”

Straka logged a .982 fielding percentage behind the plate and ranked among the team leaders in several offensive categories. He batted .378 with a .521 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage. He ranked first on the club in stolen bases with 11, clicked for 14 hits, 14 RBIs and 10 runs scored and struck out only twice in a team-leading 48 plate appearances.

“We’ve had a great season so far,” Straka said. “We are a young team, so we have gotten much better with experience. Our strength is our resiliency. We always play our hardest until the last inning, no matter what the score is.

“I’m very happy about my season. To me, it’s important to focus on helping the team and personal success will follow. I’m just very happy with how the team has developed as a whole.”

Straka also is a member of the SA boys golf team and plans to compete in some tournaments this summer. His current unweighted GPA is 3.9.

“I’m taking three AP classes and an honors class. I’m not quite sure what my weighted GPA is,” he said.

Smith hit .553 with a .646 on-base percentage and .578 slugging percentage this season. He led the squad in RBIs with 16 and also accounted for 21 hits, 15 runs scored, eight stolen bases and a 1.000 fielding percentage at first base.

Much like last year’s playoff season, Zorn, a Penn State recruit, led the team offensively with a .650 batting average, .708 on-base percentage and 1.125 slugging percentage along with 11 doubles, two home runs, 20 runs scored and 26 hits. He also drove in 13 runs and stole eight bases.

“Adin’s knowledge of the game is unreal,” Petruska said. “His IQ, his understanding of the strike zone, everything is just a step above the rest. The kid lives baseball and is always wanting to learn more.

“He is actually a center fielder and that’s where he plays for the Diamond Dawgs, one of the most elite travel baseball programs in Western Pennsylvania. He looks to play center field at Penn State, too.”

Two valuable reserves on the SA squad are sophomore Michael Woo and freshman William Straka, both outfielders.

“Mikey and Will are great assets off the bench,” Petruska said. “Both have come off the bench for us in pinch-hitting roles and designated hitter roles.”

Sewickley approached the playoffs with a “one at a time” attitude.

“We take each game,” Petruska said, “one pitch, one at-bat and one inning at a time and focus on that specific game we are in. We never want to look too far ahead. In the game of baseball, it is so critical to focus on the task at hand.

“We will continue to play as team and win as a team. We can only do so much as individuals, but as a team, the sky is the limit. One player will not win it for us. All 12 players will help lead us to victory.”

Petruska said he had a group of pitchers ready to make a splash in the postseason.

“We have four strong arms that we look to use throughout the playoffs,” he said. “Jordan (Smith) has been the workhorse for us, but Bennett (Spencer), Sajen (Schuchert) and Nolan (Donnelly) are always up for the task when their number is called.”

Straka, as presumed, was looking forward to the start of the WPIAL playoffs.

“I expect us to make a good run,” he said. “We’ll take it one game at a time.”

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