Quite a catch

Naz­areth Academy seni­or Melanie Kalesse ac­cep­ted a full schol­ar­ship to at­tend Si­ena Col­lege next year. She’ll play soft­ball for the D-1 Saints.

Melanie Kalesse has en­joyed quite a ride on the soft­ball field. Her hero­ics have en­abled the shortstop to travel the coun­try while com­pet­ing in vari­ous fast-pitch tour­na­ments against the top teams in the game. 

Her next stop: New York. 

Kalesse, a seni­or at Naz­areth Academy High School, signed her Let­ter of In­tent on Nov. 15 to ac­cept a full schol­ar­ship to Si­ena Col­lege, a Di­vi­sion I school in Loud­on­ville, N.Y.  

Kalesse — an hon­or stu­dent who has helped Naz­areth claim three cham­pi­on­ship crowns in as many sea­sons — re­ceived a par­tial aca­dem­ic and par­tial ath­let­ic schol­ar­ship. She plans to study ac­count­ing at Si­ena while play­ing for the Saints. 

“I just walked onto cam­pus and loved it im­me­di­ately,” said Kalesse, who also was con­sid­er­ing the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania and Penn State. “It was the right choice for me. I loved it there. They have a good pro­gram for my ma­jor and I loved the soft­ball team. I can’t wait to move there and live on my own and meet a lot of new people.”

Kalesse will join the Saints on the soft­ball field dur­ing the spring of 2013. The team went 20-25 last sea­son and was 8-8 in the Metro At­lantic Ath­let­ic Con­fer­ence. Those 20 wins were Si­ena’s most since 2005. 

As Naz­areth Academy’s start­ing shortstop, Kalesse will bring a wealth of ac­com­plish­ments to her col­lege squad. Dur­ing her three years as varsity starter, she has helped the Pan­das achieve a 58-3 over­all re­cord, in­clud­ing three con­sec­ut­ive Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation of Cath­ol­ic Academies cham­pi­on­ship titles and two Dis­trict 12 titles. 

“She’s been a sol­id con­trib­ut­or for three years, and dur­ing that time, we’ve been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful,” said Naz­areth soft­ball coach Bob Keat­ing. “She’s a ter­rif­ic play­er, de­fens­ively and of­fens­ively. I can’t say enough about how good a play­er she is. 

“She’s a lead­er,” he ad­ded. “Last year, she was one of our team cap­tains as a ju­ni­or. She’s prob­ably the fast­est run­ner that I’ve ever coached. She steals bases. She starts the of­fense. Everything you need in a soft­ball play­er, she has. I think she’ll be very suc­cess­ful in col­lege.” 

In 2009 and ’10, Naz­areth Academy claimed the Dis­trict 12 cham­pi­on­ship title. In the ’09 sea­son — when Kalesse was a fresh­man — she smacked the game-win­ning hit as the Pan­das claimed their first dis­trict title in school his­tory.

“That was one of my fa­vor­ite memor­ies at Naz­areth,” said Kalesse. “Fresh­man year was amaz­ing. It’s been so much fun play­ing for a win­ning pro­gram like Naz­areth. This sea­son, hope­fully we’ll win an­oth­er cham­pi­on­ship and go far in dis­tricts.”

The Pan­das’ sea­son will be slightly dif­fer­ent this time around, however, be­cause of the Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation of Cath­ol­ic Academies’ de­cision to elim­in­ate the post­season and de­term­ine the cham­pi­on by league play. 

The re­or­gan­iz­a­tion of the league was de­signed to ad­dress the abund­ance of game can­cel­la­tions be­cause of in­clement weath­er. Be­cause the Pennsylvania In­ter­schol­ast­ic Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation has time lim­it­a­tions for each sea­son, teams were at­tempt­ing to cram all post­poned games and play­off games in­to the last few weeks of the sea­son. As a res­ult, ath­letes were be­com­ing more in­jury-prone be­cause of the gruel­ing makeup sched­ule. 

“They took away the cham­pi­on­ship. Who­ever wins the most games gets handed the title of first place,” Kalesse ex­plained. “It kind of stinks that there won’t be a cham­pi­on­ship, but we still want that title. I don’t think it’ll af­fect us. It (the league) will still be com­pet­it­ive.” 

A lifelong com­pet­it­or on the dia­mond, Kalesse also plays for the Night­mare fast-pitch soft­ball team, a tour­na­ment squad that com­petes throughout the coun­try in vari­ous show­cases.

Kalesse is no stranger to tour­na­ment ball. Her flour­ish­ing re­sume in­cludes stints with the Phil­adelphia Spir­it, Philly Flash and the New Jer­sey Break­ers. 

She has traveled to Cali­for­nia, Col­or­ado, Flor­ida and Texas, among oth­er states, while fa­cing some of the best com­pet­i­tion in the coun­try.

“I really en­joy trav­el­ing. You get to play against teams from all over. Cali­for­nia teams are amaz­ing,” said Kalesse. “I think that play­ing tough com­pet­i­tion makes me a stronger play­er. I can take what I learn back to my high school team.”

Kalesse, who also plays in center­field, com­petes year round. Al­though this is tech­nic­ally the off­season, she is stay­ing plenty busy. 

“We have a couple of in­door tour­na­ments, but right now, we’re train­ing,” said Kalesse of her tour­na­ment team. “I work out dur­ing the week and we have team prac­tices on Sundays. I also work out as much as I can on my own, so I stay in shape.

“I love play­ing soft­ball, and I play as much as I can,” she ad­ded. “I can’t wait un­til col­lege next year when I can play at the next level. It’ll be bit­ter­sweet, be­cause I love Naz­areth and I’ll miss my team, but I’m ex­cited for col­lege.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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