Sydney McGrath recently went shopping for a prom dress. But senior prom will not be the only highlight for Latin Academy’s ace pitcher this spring.
McGrath — who has played on the Dragons’ softball squad since she was in seventh grade and her older sister, Rachel, was a junior on the team — will play this year with her younger sister, Olivia, (an eighth grader) this spring.
“It’s awesome because my passion is softball so the more I get to play at a high level I love it,” McGrath said during a telephone interview while she was dress shopping for the prom. “In eighth grade, my sister was senior so I got to look up to her, following in her footsteps is awesome.
“It’s just been a great experience. I think senior year will be even better.”
Olivia, who was along for the dress search, is looking forward to playing with big sis too.
“I’m just looking forward to having a good season, to have fun playing with her and just have a good last year because I might not play with her ever again,” she said.
Senior year has one more little bit of intrigue for McGrath as well: She’s 32-0 pitching against Boston City League teams during her tenure with the Dragons.
Not all the city league teams play up to Latin Academy’s level of softball but McGrath said there is still pressure to pitch well against them as the Dragons shoot for their sixth straight city championship.
“There’s still pressure because my team counts on me and BLA has a title to maintain and there is definitely pressure no matter who we are playing," she said. "Going into my senior year, I definitely want to maintain that.”
McGrath hasn’t left senior year up to chance either.
Aside from competing on the Dragon’s city championship swim team this winter, she has also been training with a private hitting and pitching coach several times a week.
“Swimming helps keeps my breathing in check [when I’m] pushing off the mound, it helps so much with my muscles and maintain stability and endurance,” she said. “If I’m pitching 120 pitches a game I’m going to get tired, just stay healthy to the point where I can pitch as many pitches as I need to.”
McGrath has also added a screwball and curveball to her repertoire, bringing her arsenal to a total of six pitches: fast ball, changeup, drop, rise, screwball and curveball.
“I worked so hard trying to perfect my changeup, my curveball and screwball,” she said.
“I’ve seen so much improvement so I’m so excited to throw those more during season … I like the screwball. It just fools hitters so much. I love seeing it. It comes at you straight and looks like a fastball and at the last second it breaks into a right-handed batter so you have to pull back and up on your hands. It spins inward to you. I see a lot of people jump back from them thinking it’s going to hit them and it lands on the inside corner.”
Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza said McGrath’s strikeout to walk ration in city league games is four to one.
“She very rarely walks someone,” Zizza said.
Despite all her success, McGrath still hasn’t made it past the second round of the state tournament during her tenure on the team.
“I think it will just take dedication from everyone on the team and working hard in practice,” she said. “I think if we perfect our plays and just clean up on the field a little bit, I know we can do that so I’m excited.”
If Latin Academy doesn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs this year, the McGrath family not only has Olivia coming up, but another sister who is in elementary school as well.
“I think we all learn so much from each other and knowing you have someone to look up to helps,” McGrath said of her older sister Rachel, who captains the swim team at Secret Heart University in Connecticut. “I know Olivia knows if she’s struggling on pitching or has an off day she can look to the bench and say ‘Sydney, what am I doing wrong?’
“I know in my experience having Rachel there just definitely calmed me down on the mound and I know Olivia thinks that too.”
McGrath carries a 3.36 GPA and hopes to play college softball. She has been accepted to Emmanuel College, Bryant University, Catholic University, American University, Scranton, UMass Lowell, St. John’s and Pace University and is still waiting to hear from Holy Cross and George Washington.
“Being able to play college softball has been one of my dreams since I was 12,” she said. “Being on a college softball team would broaden my talent and horizons so much.”
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