Kelly Mabe's small stature never has been a big concern.
"I've always been short, since I was little," the 5-foot-3 third baseman saidbefore taking her swings in Monday's softball practice at ArchbishopSpalding. "I've gotten used to it."
And opposing pitchers have gotten use to seeing the diminutive junior on base.
Mabe led the county in hitting for much of the season, but her average has dropped to .500 (22-for-44). She bats in the No. 2 spot in the batting order for the defending Baltimore Catholic League champs. In addition, Mabe leads the Cavaliers in runs scored (19) and stolen bases (5), and has 12 RBI.
In the field, the spunky right-hander has been flawless in 13 tries at the hot corner and was errorless in one game at catcher.
"She had a great year last year and she's become even more consistent this season," said Spalding second-year coach Jim Nemeth, whose team is 10-2 and looking to repeat as regular-season and tournament champ. "She's making great contact, getting on base, and making things happen.
"She has a great work ethic and good work habits. That's really the key about her. She works incredibly hard, and she's the most intense practice player on our team."
Mabe's intensity, which sometimes borders on hyperactivity, is genuine, and her coach said it has rubbed off on her teammates, seniors included.
"She's a leader by example," said Nemeth, who took over last season from veteran Father Paul Martin. "She's pretty quiet, but if you watch her, she's constantly talking to herself. She's real intense."
Mabe said, "I'm hard on myself and my dad gets on me for that. I always feel I can do better no matter what I do. I alwaystry to be the best at whatever I do. I can do better, I'm always thinking 'only if,' but I always feel that way. My average can be high, but I always want it to be higher.
"My dad tells me I can do better, but he realizes that sometimes I'm too hard on myself so he tells me to take a few breaths and relax."
As a three-sport standout forSpalding, Mabe has little time to relax. Last fall, she was a key member of the Cavalier volleyball team (12-0) that captured its first Catholic League title.
And this winter, she received honorable mention All-Catholic League honors, averaging 11.2 points a game on the Cavs' girls basketball team.
"She's a very good athlete," said Nemeth. "She doesn't have the fastest speed, but she's got quick first movement and she takes advantage of opportunities, especially when she's on base. For her size she's strong, but she's not a power hitter. She has good mechanics at the plate and is a great bunter."
After playing in the Glen Burnie Boys Youth Baseball program from grades three through eight, Mabe got her first taste of softball as a freshman on Spalding's junior varsity team. She caught on quickly and midway through her freshman year was moved up to the varsity, where she saw limited time before starting in center field last year as a sophomore.
"The transition from baseball to softball wasn't bad," she said. "Hitting was the biggest adjustment. The ball was coming in, speed-wise, faster in baseball, but you have less time to react in softball because the mound is so much closer."
Things haven't changed much over the past couple of years and Mabe still finds herself working on the basics -- making the plays on the field and getting the bat on the ball at the plate.
"I just try to get on base and bring the leadoff batter around," she said. "I like bunting a lot and I don't mind bunting to move her around if she gets on. I prefer hitting but I'll do whatever the coach asks me to do."
Spalding's star windmiller, senior Kim Sheridan, said she feels confident knowing Mabe is behind her at third base and is looking forward to having her as a teammate on Wagner's summer league softball team.
"Kelly is very disciplined and she works very hard at everything," said Sheridan, who had 16 strikeouts in Spalding's 3-2 first-round loss to Old Mill in Saturday's North County Holiday Tournament. "She practices likes she's in a game and she's very intense. But she's got a great personality and she's a real team player."
And no one is selling her short.