Sewickley Academy softball focused on development

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Sunday, April 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Sewickley Academy softball team will look to build in 2021.

After losing four-year starting pitcher Alexis Barlock, along with four other starters, the Panthers won’t have any seniors this season and co-head coaches Heather Border and Shannon Rankin are looking to build the program back up.

“We’re just focusing on the development during the season and getting back the enjoyment that softball can provide these girls,” Rankin said. “Then, we hope that they reach out to others moving forward so we can continue to build the program back up again.”

Two years ago, the Panthers went 9-4 and finished two games behind Union for a section title. But, with no starters returning from that team and a slew of new players who will look to bring their athleticism from other sports, the Panthers will be young and inexperienced in 2021.

Among other hurdles, Border and Rankin will look to replace Barlock in the circle. This will be one of the first seasons where the Panthers don’t have a specific arm to lean on throughout the year.

“We were fortunate that we had a starting pitcher for four years, then she graduated and we had a new starting pitcher that came in for four years,” Rankin said. “So, this is the first time that we aren’t having a designated pitcher on our team.”

Sophomore Madison Miller has stepped up to take over in the circle though, and Rankin said she has some experience pitching. They’ll also lean on the friendship she has with catcher Olivia Jackson.

“Having that friendship from pitcher to catcher will be a huge help for us in working with the two of them together,” Rankin said.

The Panthers have a small roster of nine or 10 players and none of them have started at the varsity level. A few were involved in the team’s run to the WPIAL quarterfinals two years ago, but they didn’t play regularly.

So, from top to bottom, the Panthers will be looking to just get back to the basics and improve each day. But, having those low numbers should help in the long run as players get more experience and reps during practices and games.

“That’s going to be essential for us,” Rankin said. “We send them into small groups and we work individually with them and we’ve seen over the last two weeks the growth that these girls have had. So, while they might not be designated softball players, they are athletes and when you have positive mind and athletic ability you can teach them the skills that they need.”

With a small roster and a lack of experience, the Panthers are sure to take their lumps this season, but for Border and Rankin, just seeing improvement on a day-to-day basis will go a long way toward building the program back up.

“We’re looking for growth everywhere, and we’re looking to just bring the interest back to where it was,” Border said. “We just graduated a big group of softball players and we have been lucky to get a few girls from the basketball team who are contributing nicely. Just getting better and seeing improvement throughout the season is our main focus.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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