Catonsville Chaos under-18 softball coach Kerry Burns wasn't sure what to expect when he asked 15-year-old twins Allison and Hailee Clampitt to join his club team this summer.
With only one tournament left — a college showcase tournament this weekend in Raleigh, N.C. — in the season, Burns can safely say he landed two of the most dedicated players he has ever coached.
"Absolutely," said Burns, when asked if the two Arbutus residents were pleasant surprises.
Not only did the rising Seton Keough juniors earn roster spots on the squad, they earned their way into the starting lineup as well.
Allison, a starter for the 2012 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champion Gators, has played shortstop and second base while Hailee earned time at second base and right field for the Chaos
"What we originally said was, 'You are both young and you are going to earn time here, we will give you a (jersey) and a chance,' and they have taken advantage of it," Burns said.
"When I first came to Chaos, I didn't expect to get much playing time, but I've earned it." Hailee said.
"Hailee turned into a starter, and she worked her way up to do that — that extra effort, extra practice and a bit of persistence and hard work," Burns said. "They both worked very hard and turned into starters."
Although Allison provides more power and extra-base hits to prove it, they are both slap hitters from the left side who can create havoc with their speed out of the box.
That's despite the fact the twins are both naturally right-handers who were switched to the left side when they started playing travel ball for the Maryland Chill at age nine.
"It (club ball) was a major adjustment," said Allison, who started playing recreation softball in Arbutus at age six.
"It was totally different," Hailee added. "Softball became our life."
Allison, who also plays soccer and basketball at Seton Keough, hopes to keep it that way for awhile.
"I want to play softball in college," she said.
Hailee, who plays voleyball, is on the fence about her diamond career beyond high school.
Both are Honor Roll students and officers in their class at Seton Keough with intelligence that carries over to the softball diamond, according to Burns.
"They are both fundamentally very solid and their skills-sets are good, and they are highly coachable," Burns said. "They have very high IQ's, sports-wise and athletically."
The twins are both eager to learn and agreed they still have a lot to absorb.
"I need to improve every aspect of the game," Allison said. "There is always growth to become better."
Playing against elite competition helps, as when the twins and their parents, Treena and Dennis, drove to Oklahoma City when the Chaos participated in a tournament in the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium.
The trip was worth it for the experience and for a special moment when Haillee's name was on the scoreboard as she dug in at the plate just as Allison's name was also displayed as the on-deck batter.
"It was so neat to play in the stadium the night after we watched the USA team play there," Hailee said.
"When we played in the stadium, we felt so professional," Allison said. "It was a really good experience."
While Catonsville finished in the top 10 in Oklahoma City, one memory that is tops for Allison is the club's runner-up finish in the Maryland ASA State championships.
"I really enjoyed the ASA states," Allison said. "We played five games on Saturday and three on Sunday and everybody was so tired and sore — and we still finished second."
The Chaos also won the Keystone Cup tournament in Pennsylvania and took third in the USSA Firecracker tournament at Rockburn Park in Ellicott City.
On July 14, they hosted the Chaos for the Cure Tournament at Catonsville Middle School and Catonsville Senior Center to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and went 1-2, losing twice to the Maryland Stars, 2-1 and 1-0, despite strong pitching efforts from CCBC-Catonsville recruit Sammi O'Connor and George Mason rising sophomore Jamie Rice.
The tournament was delayed four hours on Saturday after an early morning storm, creating a dilemma for Allison and her dad who were supposed to attend the Jim Palmer statue-dedication game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Although it had been planned for months, Allison chose to stay and play with her team rather than attend the game.
"Both coaches said 'Go to the Oriole game,' but she said she wouldn't feel right about letting her team down,'" Burns said. "That kid wants to play softball, and she wants to play at the next level and she'll get there."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun