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 email@example.com