By Shawn Annarelli
Jenna Swank pitched a perfect game in her senior year of high school, but her individual accomplishment still takes second place to Ford City’s playoff run the same year.
“I would say my crowning achievement was when Ford City made the second round of the playoffs during my senior year,” Swank said.
Given the choice between another playoff run at New Kensington or pitching a perfect game, Swank wants to be back in the postseason.
“I would love to make the playoffs, and I think we have a really good shot this year,” Swank said.
Swank’s team first attitude makes her a leader on the team.
“She’s a team player, and she’s definitely a leader already,” said head coach Mike Marsili. “She won’t scream and yell, ‘Let’s go.’ She’ll put her work in, and so the other girls see that and follow her lead. They respect her, and I think they’ll follow her work ethic.”
Swank will also be the team’s starting pitcher and third hitter, generally reserved for a team’s best batter.
“I’ve always hit third or fourth, but usually when I’m pitching I’m a little further down the line-up,” Swank said. “Right now, coach has me pitching and hitting third, and so far I’ve remained calm.”
While there will be added pressure on Swank, Marsili expects Swank to lead the team into the playoffs.
“I expect her to carry us to the playoffs,” Marsili said.
While Swank has always been a threat at the plate, she has shown particular improvement on the mound this season. Last year, she primarily threw her fastball, but her curveball has come a long way this season.
“Pitching wise, if her curveball is on, she’s unhittable,” Marsili said.
The right-handed Swank will throw her curveball a lot against right-handed batters. She’ll also continue to use her fastball, and she’ll use her screwball against left-handed batters.
While Swank’s on-field performance could help define New Kensington’s season, kidney stones, an uncontrollable health issue, could sporadically thwart her efforts.
“Last spring, I was in the hospital for three days to remove them,” Swank said. “I have no idea when they’re going to come. They’re insanely painful.”
Swank most recently battled through another bout of kidney stones in February. She hopes luck is on her side, because one missed game could mean the difference.