Haylie McCleney.jpg

HAYLIE McCLENEY: More flying catches in center field

Throughout her athletic career at Mortimer Jordan, Haylie McCleney has been The One Who Gets Things Done.

Need a lead-off batter to get on base? She can lay down a bunt and reach first before the fielding team can even get to the ball. Need to bring those runners home? She can park the ball well past the fence. Or how about a point guard who can sink the 3-pointer or drive the lane? Check and double-check.

That’s just part of the repertoire of McCleney, who is best known for her exploits on the softball field; those earned her the title of Miss Softball — the best high school player in the state, as voted by the Alabama Sports Writers Association — and a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama, the defending NCAA champions.

And now, she’s the 2012 North Jefferson News Female Athlete of the Year.

McCleney broke the Alabama High School Athletic Association record for top batting average in a single season and, as we found out in the past few days, for a career. Her .692 mark for this season bested the previous record by 34 percentage points. (She also appears in the 15th and 24th spots on that record list for 2011 and 2009, respectively.) She hit .587 for her career, three points better than the old record. She also has scored more career runs than any player (301), and is tied for the fewest strikeouts in a season (1, in 145 plate appearances).

In short, McCleney’s name appears on the AHSAA softball record page no less than 20 times, and she has three state championship rings in her jewelry case to boot. In all five years of her varsity play, the Devils reached the Class 5A state championship game.

During the winter, McCleney has also been the sparkplug for the Blue Devils hoops squad, showing the same aggressiveness and speed as she did on the softball diamond. Her face-offs against he counterpart at Hayden, 2011 NJN Female Athlete of the Year Krista Stricklin, were often some of the best matchups seen on the hardwood in our area, regardless of gender.

Her versatility is not surprising. As a youngster, she also played football as a quarterback — prompting a few fans to inquire about her availability last season, when the Devils’ two starters went down due to injury.

McCleney also ran track on occasion, and also cross country last year, though more for conditioning purposes than competition.

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