Softball: Mellott starts Sterling offense from the top
Every great baseball and softball offense has an igniter, a table-setter at the top of the lineup. For the Sterling softball team, it’s Karlie Mellott.
Mellott made a splash as a freshman a year ago, playing in all 34 games for the Golden Warriors. She batted .411 and went 12-1 as a pitcher with a 1.23 ERA in 79 2/3 innings.
This season, she leads the team in batting average (.500), runs (50), hits (62), triples (5), slugging percentage (.645) and on-base percentage (.533). She’s hit safely in 31 of her 35 games, and 24 of the last 25. She’s also second on the team in RBIs (34).
Mellott and Co. will look to stay hot when the Warriors face Kaneland in a 3A Belvidere North Sectional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. today.
Mellott, who also plays for softball teams in the Quad Cities and Chicago during the off-season, loves the leadoff spot.
“It’s an interesting role to fill,” she said. “You set the tone for your team. It’s a big role to take on, but I really enjoy it.”
Sterling coach Rick Henderson likes Mellott’s versatility at the top of the lineup.
“She has the triple threat,” Henderson said. “She can bunt, she can slap, and she can hit. And she does it all from the same position. With some hitters, the defense can read them. But she does it all from the same spot. She reads the defense.
“Unless we’re in a definite sacrifice situation, I pretty much let her go. She usually does the right thing.”
Mellott is trying to follow in the footsteps of cousins and former Eastland greats Robin and Sarah Martz. Sarah Martz, whose married name is Spears, is now the Milledgeville head coach and has her team headed to the Class 1A state tournament this weekend.
“I’m striving to reach what both Robin and Sarah have done,” said Mellott. “It pushes me. It’s cool to have the softball mentality throughout the family.”
Mellott is a natural right-handed hitter. But she was taught to bat left-handed, which now she does full-time, by the Martzes’ dad, Tom, when she as approximately 9 years old.
“There’s so many advantages from the left side,” she said. “You’ve got slapping, dragging, and hitting. The defense doesn’t know what to expect.”
The switch wasn’t an easy one.
“The first year was really tough,” Mellott said. “You’re using different eyes. That was the biggest switch.”
There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with being a leadoff hitter.
“It’s a good pressure,” Mellott said. “I love pressure. It makes me work. It makes me tick.”
Mellott’s pitching came to a halt when she developed a sprained medial patellar ligament in her left knee. She’s played virtually full-time at shortstop, committing eight errors in 35 games.
Her last appearance in the circle was March 29; she was 2-0 with a 2.47 ERA in 11 1/3 innings.
“It got really bad,” she said. “I love getting the ball, but there’s a point when you have to listen to your body. When your body says no, there’s not much you can do. When I’m older, I want to run marathons and do a lot of stuff, so I have to take care of my body.”
It’s been hard for Mellott not to push the envelope.
“I’m going to go all out until I can’t,” she said. “That’s just me.”
Mellott’s team-highs: .500 average, 50 runs, 62 hits, 5 triples, .645 slugging percentage, .533 on-base percentage