With rebuilt roster, Sewickley Academy softball eyes improvement

Sunday, April 16, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Small steps.

“The program is building up again as our roster has increased from nine to 13 players this year,” said Win Palmer, who is coaching the Sewickley Academy softball team this season.

“Bob Sirko, a familiar name to Beaver County softball and who coached at Carlow College, has joined our program as an assistant coach and has made a huge impact on our program with his vast knowledge of the game.”

The undersized SA squad finished 1-10 last season. The Panthers lost their final nine games and ended up 1-9 in Section 1-A.

Sewickley’s last postseason appearance came in 2019 when the Panthers finished second in section play and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs.

Sewickley had a great start this year, thrashing Cornell, 17-0, on March 28 in its season, section and home opener. That impressive victory was followed by a section losses to Northgate and South Side Beaver and a wild 19-17 nonsection defeat against Shady Side Academy.

Palmer welcomed five returning starters to this year’s team, including senior standout and third-year starter Maddy Miller, an all-section selection in 2022.

Miller, whose freshman season was canceled by the covid pandemic, can play catcher, pitcher or shortstop.

“I think this year’s goals are to keep building our numbers in general and keep developing our core group of players, especially since our team is young,” Miller said. “I also want the players on the team to form a strong connection and establish a better sense of teamwork rather than (being) a bunch of individuals who happen to join the team.”

Miller, 18, has a 3.6 GPA and plans to attend Duquesne in the fall and study in the pharmacy program. She said the Panthers whole-heartedly worked on their softball fundamentals in preseason practices.

“We focused a lot on our situational awareness on the bases and while in the field,” Miller said. “Our group this year has a couple of very experienced players, and some who had never picked up a glove.

“We made sure we focused on the fundamentals so the groundwork is there to continue working on throughout the season and for the coming years.”

Miller has the basics firmly secure since she’s been playing softball for almost 13 years.

“I played travel ball for about five of those years before high school,” she said. “As soon as I was old enough to play, my dad signed me up for T-ball and I really love playing because that’s how my dad and I connect — especially since we’re both so competitive.”

Miller added “pitcher” to her repertoire while at Sewickley when Alexis Barlock, a four-year starting hurler for the Panthers, graduated in 2020.

“I had to relearn how to pitch after not pitching since 12U,” Miller said, “since our head pitcher graduated during my freshman year.”

Being able to study on the Bluff has special meanings for the versatile and athletic 5-foot-7 Miller.

“A lot of my family members have attended Duquesne,” she said. “Also, my mom and aunt went for pharmacy, so I just felt it was a natural fit. And I love the campus.

“I also wanted to stay in Pittsburgh so I could be with near my family and be able to help coach the Sewickley softball team next year during the spring.”

Other returning starters for Sewickley include senior Ella Tominac, a first baseman/outfielder, plus sophomores Quincy Sirko, at first base, Laurie Lau, at second base, and Marie Bigi, at the catcher position.

A key newcomer in the lineup is freshman Sonaa Grant, who can play multiple positions.

“Along with these players,” Palmer said, “we have a number of players who are new to the game of softball so our practices are a combination of honing skills and teaching the game.

“With so many freshmen joining our program along with a strong interest in the middle school, the future looks promising.”

Along with Grant, freshman prospects include Isabella Ballard, Genevieve Kain, Dakyla Savage Walker and Milan Warfield-Payne.

Rounding out the team are senior Kathryn Allen, junior Molly Russell and sophomore Grace Gibson.

On a side note, Allen was honored in November at the 59th Medallion Ball for completing more 150 hours of community service.

Sirko also is a member of the girls soccer, basketball and track and field programs at Sewickley. Warfield-Payne also competes in cross country, basketball and track and field.

Ballard is a cheerleader and a member of the girls soccer team; Russell and Grant also are SA cheerleaders.

Bigi, Lau and Tominac play tennis for the Panthers.


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