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Delone softball reloads with young talent

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Delone Catholic pitcher Marlee Lackey has some big shoes to fill this season in the circle.

She steps into the role held for four years by Cassie Rickrode, who was one of the Squirettes' starting Big Three that won four YAIAA Division IV titles, claimed a District 3 crown and made two appearances in the PIAA tournament. Rickrode now pitches at McDaniel College.

Lackey steps into a new role as she's tasked with trying to fill that pitching void. Because the Squirettes didn't field a JV squad a year ago, and because Rickrode was so dominant, Lackey was able to pitch only "two or three times" last season.

But she isn't fazed by the responsibilities that have been placed on her.

"I've put in a lot of work to be ready for this," she said. "My philosophy is that it doesn't matter if the other team hits the ball. I trust the defense to make the plays and I don't let it faze me."

The Squirettes also graduated shortstop Shelbee Holcomb, who plays collegiately at Mount St. Mary's University, and third baseman Katie Laughman, who now plays volleyball at Millersville University. Laughman, Holcomb and Rickrode batted second through fourth last year, in that order.

Last season's second baseman Callie Shearer moves to shortstop and has assumed Laughman's No. 2 hole in the batting order.

Freshman second basemen Lauren Little moves to the No. 3 spot, followed by freshman catcher Katie Ernst.

Meanwhile, Amanda Braun, who was a reserve a year ago, has taken over at third base for the Squirettes, who have won five consecutive division titles.

This year, Delone (5-1, 5-2) sits atop the division again following Monday's 5-1 win against Fairfield.

"We've got a lot of talent on the team, but it's young," Delone coach Don Smith said. "We're doing pretty well, but I didn't really know what to expect. I was told that the freshmen were good, but I hadn't actually seen them play. They've exceeded expectations so far."

Smith is pleased with the team, although the margin for error isn't as big as it has been in recent seasons.

"We don't hit as well as we did last year. We won a lot of games by mercy rule," he said. "So our pitching and defense has to be good."