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Catonsville junior Callie McCleary is a three-year varsity starter for the Comets. The Comet outfielder batted over .300 and helped out on the mound last season.
Catonsville junior Callie McCleary is a three-year varsity starter for the Comets. The Comet outfielder batted over .300 and helped out on the mound last season. (File photo/2014)

Young talented players take over on the softball diamond at Catonsville High School, where coach Steve McCleary returns only two seniors from last year's 8-9 squad.

Seniors Jess Lowe (3B) and Leann Tyler (OF) and junior Callie McCleary (OF), the team's tri-captains, and sophomores Alleshia Pullen (C) and Amber Lally (2B) are the only returning starters.

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Pullen, McCleary and Lowe all batted over .300 last season.

Four-year varsity starter Lowe, the 2014 team Most Valuable Player, is a solid cleanup hitter and Pullen, a Second Team All-Division catcher, hit five home runs last year.

New faces dot the lineup starting with freshman pitcher Akirra Pullen on the mound hurling to her older sister.

"She has pretty good location and throws a pretty decent curve ball," McCleary said.

Freshman Nicole Beautz has already flashed some fine glovework in center field and freshman Alyssa James has solidified herself at shortstop.

"Beautz has been a tremendous surprise," McCleary said. "She is leading off and playing center field. She is going to be a really good player"

James fits nicely in the middle of the diamond.

"She has done very well," McCleary said. "She has a lot of experience from summer ball."

Varsity veteran Liz Anderson, a junior who pitched along with McCleary last season, will play some outfield and first base along with freshmen Bailey Lenerise and Kelsey Ellis.

Lenerise and Ellis can also handle backup roles at catcher.

Junior Brooke Geppi fills a utility role. "I would say it's the best freshman class we've had in seven years," McCleary said.

Catonsville opened the season with victories over Patapsco and Loch Raven, before falling to defending Class 2A state champion Eastern Tech, 17-0, and Dulaney, 6-4.

In the 8-7 win over Loch Raven, the Comets prevailed after falling behind.

"That was really exciting," said McCleary, whose squad scored five runs in the sixth inning after trailing 6-3.

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Akirra Pullen was 1-for-1 with a two-run triple and three walks. McCleary had two RBIs and James went 3-for-4.

The 17-0 loss to an Eastern Tech squad which McCleary called "the best team in the state" was not a shock to the coach who knows his young squad will take some tough losses against quality foes.

"I'm really building for the future, but we are going to get better as the year goes along, but we are kind of projecting this to next year when we have more experience and everybody is bigger and stronger and we have another strong incoming class," he said.

McCleary is finally seeing the benefits from the increased numbers in the Catonsville recreation program.

"For the last four to five years, the job that Chuck Kreis (former president) has done in this community raising softball awareness is now paying off," McCleary said. "I think we are going to have strong freshman classes every year."

McCleary's young squad will get a major test when senior third baseman Lowe will miss the game when they host Mount de Sales during spring break on April 7 at 4 p.m.

"That day, the whole infield, pitcher, catcher and center field will all be freshmen and sophomores," McCleary said. "These freshmen and sophomores are playing."

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