Sports Person of the Week
Kirla’s Solid as a Rock Behind the Dish
Junior Carlee Kirla is providing sound defense as the Valley Regional softball squad’s catcher this season. She also has a .500 batting average for the Warriors, who are sporting a record of 12-0. (Photo courtesy of Carlee Kirla )
Carlee Kirla is establishing herself as a dependable catcher for the Valley Regional softball team. Carlee’s steady presence behind the plate, coupled with the skillset of pitcher Addy Bullis, gives the Warriors an effective battery tandem that’s helped the club win its first 12 games of the season. Carlee, a junior, is also getting it done in the batter’s box by hitting at a .500 clip to go with 20 RBI.
One of the most impressive aspects about Carlee’s success is that she’s still relatively new to the catcher’s position. Carlee primarily played first base while growing up, then saw some time as a catcher early in her career at Valley. This year, Carlee became the Warriors’ regular backstop, and she’s been impressing at that spot.
“At the beginning of the season, I played a bit of first, but now I think it will be more catching for me,” Carlee says. “With catching, I was just kind of thrown in there freshman year at Valley. At first, it was a little bit weird, and you don’t see a lefty catcher that often. Addy Bullis and me really bonded. We communicate great together.”
Carlee, a Deep River resident, has spent a lot of time honing her catching skills, particularly blocking balls in the dirt and talking with her fellow fielders. While she concentrates on defense, Carlee also displays a good mix of power and contact as a hitter.
“I’d say I focus on my defense. I have the ability to make plays and communicate to everyone what’s going on,” says Carlee, who received the Warriors’ Triple D Award for her determination, desire, and dedication last year. “At the plate, I’m trying to hit for power a lot of the time, but I’m aware what needs to be done. I can hit into a little gap here or there if we need it.”
The Warriors are enjoying tremendous success with their undefeated record. It’s a tall task to win every game, although Carlee believes that her team is up for the challenge.
“We’re definitely trying to be undefeated the rest of the season. It’s a bit nerve-wracking thinking about where we are, but we’re all staying calm about it,” Carlee says. “We’re taking the games one by one. We’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just focused on winning.”
Carlee feels that the fellowship in Valley’s dugout is one of the biggest contributors to the team’s success. Carlee knows the Warriors never could have made it this far without everyone’s willingness to play for the person next to them.
“I think as a team, as a whole, we’ve all really had the chance to bond. It’s been a great team dynamic, and we feel supported by the team behind us and the positive attitudes that we all have,” she says. “We know that we all have each other’s back.”
With just two seniors on the roster, Carlee realizes that some of the leadership responsibility falls on her and her fellow juniors. As one of Valley’s veterans, Carlee tries to provide a blueprint of success for her underclass teammates to follow.
“I’m hoping that I set a good example for some of the younger players,” says Carlee, who also plays for Valley’s volleyball squad. “There’s a couple of other juniors, and we all know what our role is, and we all know what we need to do to help our team. It’s taken a lot of the pressure off.”
First-year Head Coach Allyson Pitney has been pleased with Carlee’s assertive approach in all facets of the game. Pitney says that Carlee always wants to contribute to the greater good of the Warriors.
“I love how aggressive Carlee is on defense, up at bat, and running the bases. She’s a tough player who will never give up. She’s a versatile player and has a willingness to step up and do whatever the team needs,” says Pitney. “Carlee brings a quiet leadership to the team, remaining calm behind the plate during high-nerve situations. She’s a dedicated teammate and gives 100-percent effort. She’s had some great hits at clutch times, batted in some important runs, and started some rallies.”
Carlee thanks her teammates and coaches for their support. Valley is having a great campaign this spring, and Carlee wants the Warriors to continue making their faithful fans proud.
“I would like to thank the whole team in general. My coaches have helped me get out of any mental blocks and, if I’m having a bad day, they know what to say to get me focused,” Carlee says. “I’m really proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished so far, and I just hope that we keep going and that everyone is enjoying the games.”