Northwestern Press

Monday, July 15, 2019

Softball team achieved with young roster

Thursday, June 13, 2019 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

From the first game of the season, the Northwestern softball team had plenty of offense.

In their season-opener, the Tigers downed Saucon Valley 20-4 and scored double-digits in runs in five of their first seven games of the season. The downside was that somehow, they opened the season with a mediocre 3-2 start.

After dropping a nonconference game to Tamaqua, the Tigers went on a streak that saw them win nine straight games before a loss to Southern Lehigh slowed them temporarily.

To finish the season, Northwestern rattled off five more wins in a row and cemented its place at the top of the Colonial League and District 11 rankings.

“This team never really got too high or too low emotionally,” said head coach Josh Zimmerman. “They kept themselves in check pretty well and just went out and did their work and the wins really started coming.”

The season went especially well considering the team was loaded with underclassmen, having just two seniors in Emily Akelaitis and Ashley Sisco on their roster.

Both seniors played key roles for the team, with Akelaitis handling the pitching and Sisco providing both offense and defense as the team’s first baseman. Akelaitis, who reached the 100-hit plateau for her career during the season, led the team in home runs (7) and was 15-5 with a 2.16 ERA on the mound. Sisco hit .324 on the season with a home run and 19 RBI for Northwestern Lehigh.

“We only had two seniors, but they made an impact with the rest of the team,” said Zimmerman. “There’s no denying that they were the team leaders and really made the rest of the players better by the way they helped them and kept them relaxed. We’re definitely going to miss them.”

While the regular season seemed easy, the postseason didn’t go as well. Northwestern had a first-round bye in the Colonial League playoffs and then lost in the semifinals to Palmerton, who went on to win the league championship.

In districts, the top-seeded Tigers again had a first-round bye, but this time beat Tamaqua in the semifinals to advance to the finals against Blue Mountain. The finals were big not just for the district gold medal, but only one team would advance to states.

The Eagles were able to down Northwestern 5-1, ending the season for the Tigers with an 18-5 overall record.

“You never want to end your season that way, but the girls had a great season,” said Zimmerman. “When you look back at how well they played and how they improved as the season went on, it was obviously a successful season for us. Plus, we have a lot of young players that can come back next season and have more experience, including having played in the postseason.”

Brynn Balliet, who will be a sophomore next season, is the heir apparent to Akelaitis in the pitcher’s circle. The hunt will be on for Sisco’s replacement at first base. Anna Akelaitis, who serves as the team’s catcher, figures to repeat her sister’s 100-hit milestone next season as she needs just 25 more hits to reach that number.

As a freshman, Morgan Farthing led the team in hitting with a .579 average and led the team with 33 RBI, while finishing tied for second in home runs with five and tied for third in runs scored with 27.