Catonsville senior Callie McCleary has played multiple positions in her four years on the varsity. She batted .376 last season and figures to play left field this season.
Catonsville senior Callie McCleary has played multiple positions in her four years on the varsity. She batted .376 last season and figures to play left field this season. (File photo/2015)

When Catonsville's softball season ended with a loss to Perry Hall in the second round of the Class 4A North playoffs, coach Steve McCleary knew the future was still bright.

He thought he had a solid nucleus returning from his 11-7 squad and knew there were several freshmen on the horizon that could contribute immediately.

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They were expected to join his top two power hitters, freshman pitcher Akirra Pullen and her older sister, sophomore Alleshia Pullen, who combined for six home runs and 31 RBIs last season.

Akirra also posted an 11-7 record on the mound while batting .400 and Alleshia batted .521.

But they both transferred to Dulaney High where they help make the Lions a strong candidate for a Baltimore County championship.

McCleary knows the Comets would have been a contender for the county title, but he still has high hopes for his young squad that includes one senior, three juniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen.

Senior Callie McCleary (OF) is a four-year starter and the coach's daughter.

She will also be a co-captain with junior Amber Lally (2B).

McCleary batted .376 last year and in four seasons on varsity she has pitched, played shortstop and outfield.

Her dad has coached her for several years and he knows senior day could be an emotional one, but for now he's hoping she can help him mold some of the younger talent into a finely-tuned machine.

"This is her last stint of softball," McCleary said.

Lally returns for her third season as the starting second baseman and the coach likes her focus.

"I can tell Lally wants it this year," McCleary said.

Sophomores Nicole Beautz (CF), Alyssa James (SS) and Kelsey Ellis (3B) are also varsity veterans.

"Beautz (.376 avg.) could probably play any position but catcher and if I asked her she would probably try it," McCleary said. "She's a kid that can pretty much do anything."

James (.417 average) was an All-Division selection and Second Team All-County shortstop as a freshman.

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"She had a great year," McCleary said.

Ellis moves across the diamond to third base after manning first base last spring.

The seven incoming freshmen includes pitcher Erin Kreis, who takes over on the mound.

McCleary has seen her for several years playing for the Catonsville Chaos program in the summer and knew he was getting a gem.

Although her first scrimmage game was cut short because of rain and snow showers on Saturday, March 19, McCleary was impressed.

"She has a really good curve ball. She struggled with her drop on Saturday, but she has a pretty decent drop," he said. "Right now, it's just being able to throw the ball to a location, hitting her spots. That's what she needs to work on."

Kreis throws right-handed and bats left-handed and she made a big first impression in her first two at bats in the scrimmage against Bishop McNamara when she hit a one-hopper over the fence in left-center and lined another single to left.

"She is going to be a very good ball player. She works hard off the field and she has for a long time," McCleary said.

The other freshmen includes Raynor Reinhardt (1B/OF), Katrina Bucher (C/OF), Kelsey Jones (OF/UT), Brooke Mariner (UT), Caitlin McCormick (OF/2B) and Rachel Phillips (C/UT).

Jones, McCormick and Mariner should also wreak havoc on the base paths.

"It's probably the fastest team we have had in a while," McCleary said. "We've got some kids that can run."

Junior Jade Sherrill, a transfer from Anne Arundel County, could help behind the plate and junior Brooke Hebron (UT) is a new addition up from junior varsity.

Another new addition for home games this season will be a home run fence and McCleary thinks Kreis, Ellis, Reinhardt and Sherrill have the potential to take advantage of it.

"I like our lineup if everybody is healthy," McCleary said.

Fans won't get to see the new look park until the Comets play Dulaney in the home opener on April 4.

Catonsville opens the season on March 23 at Towson and they will play at Glen Burnie on April 2 before they host Dulaney.

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