WEST PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth West softball pitching and first base coach Mike Payne reminded those attending senior Sydney McDermott’s collegiate signing of his nickname for her — “Rocket.”
It’s a more than accurate nickname, as McDermott’s arm and ability in the circle has allowed the ball to fly past her opponents at the plate over her playing career.
In her two seasons as West’s starting pitcher (sans the COVID-canceled 2020 season), McDermott has set and reset the program record for strikeouts — with 295 in her sophomore season and 354 last spring.
Last Wednesday, the Lady Senator senior made it official where she’d be taking her pitching talents — signing her National Letter-of-Intent with Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
“It’s definitely very exciting. I’ve worked my whole life for it, it’s so rewarding to see it all pay off,” McDermott said, at her signing. “Thankful for my community and for everybody showing up — it’s been really special.”
West head coach Dani Coleman spoke to McDermott’s ability and coach-ability as a player.
And not just any player — a two-time first team Division III all-Ohioan and SOC II Pitcher of the Year.
“We’re incredibly proud of Sydney; for this, her accomplishments on the field and academically,” Coleman said. “I can remember doing camps and Sydney would come. At her games in little league and in all-star games — you could see her potential and that she had something special. She’s the whole package — athletic, talented, intelligent, and one of the hardest working on the field. She’s usually the first to get to practice and the last to leave. She’s humble, works to earn, but also puts the team and her teammates before anything.”
For McDermott, her desire to play at the collegiate level came at an early age — falling in love with softball, putting in the work and making the necessary sacrifices to reach the point she has.
“Started playing travel softball when I was nine, and I just developed a passion for pitching,” McDermott said. “I realized that it’s something that could take me far in life and I’ve always enjoyed doing it. I fell in love with the game. It’s been hard, but it’s rewarding at the same time. Finding time after practice with no excuses — finding a way to get it in everyday. Whether it be pitching, glove work, or weight training; anyway I can develop myself and be better today than I was yesterday. This isn’t the end goal, but a step along the way and have to keep working to help the program at Valpo.”
At Valparaiso, McDermott will play under the guidance of coach Meaggan Pettipiece — a first-year hire that was announced by the university in September.
Pettipiece has plenty of experience coaching at the Division I level, as she served as the University of Akron head coach for three seasons (2020-2022) — and as an assistant coach at Kent State in the three years prior (2017-2019).
“On my visit I was shown around by a few of the teammates — the way they talked about it seemed like they loved it. The coaches are new and are looking to build up the program,” McDermott said.
Upon enrolling at Valpo, she is planning to pursue a degree to one day become a Physician’s Assistant.
“They have a very good PA program, McDermott said. “That was definitely a big deciding factor as well.”
In addition to her time on the softball field, McDermott is also a four-year member of the girls basketball team at West.
In the circle of the infield is where McDermott has excelled, however, and she’s looking to do more of the same after a stellar junior season.
When clocked recently, McDermott’s fastball comes out of her hand and across the plate at a humming 61 to 63 MPH.
She credits her speed and spin rate — things she’s worked hard to improve — as a large part in her success.
“I’d like to improve on that a couple of miles an hour and keep my spin rate up. I feel like that’s a big reason of why I’m successful, because of the movement I can put on the ball.”
Last spring, McDermott helped guide the Lady Senators to a 26-3 record — while tossing 17 shutouts and five no-hitters over the course of the season.
Her ERA was an astounding .870 with a .596 WHIP — to go along with her 649 career strikeouts.
“It’s been wonderful. I’ve grown up with the girls my whole life so we have really close connections, whether it be on the basketball court or in softball,” she said. “We all have the same goals in going out and winning every game, putting forth our best effort in everything we do.”
Still in the midst of her senior year, McDermott and her Lady Senator teammates are still pushing toward their team and individual goals.
As it stands, the Lady Senators are tied atop the SOC II standings in girls basketball — and return all but one starter from last year’s Division III district championship and Region 11 runner-up finish in softball.
“Have some unfinished business from last year, excited to keep working and keep working for our goals,” McDermott said.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved