Beginning in the fall of 2013, Holley Gray, Shelby Gilreath, Rachel Polacek, Qiley Lewis, Jesse Giles, Annabeth Pruett, Amber Broome and Frankie Catinella will officially enter the Lee program.
AMBER BROOME played at Harrison High School in the Acworth, Ga., area. She played second and third base for coach Matt Jones and batted .424 for Harrison and .352 this past season in summer ball. She was an all-region performer for three straight years.
Broome considered George Mason, UNC-Pembroke and James Madison before deciding to join the Lady Flames. “I selected Lee because of the academic, athletic and Christian environment the university will provide me in years to come,” said Broome.
The new recruit says she will major in health science and plans to become a pharmacist. “As an individual I hope to make an impact in all areas of college life. As a player I hope to contribute immediately to the program. As a team I hope we can come together and compete like we know how.”
Said Russell: “Amber is a very solid defender and hitter. We are looking for her to strengthen our offense with her power. She is quick on the corner with a strong arm. She has played at a very high level of travel ball as most of this class has, and that will pay off for the program and help them make the transition to college more easily.”
FRANKIE CATINELLA played for coach Ronnie Davis at South Forsyth High School in the Cumming, Ga., area. Playing in the outfield, Catinella batted .349 last summer. Over the past two seasons she has been named all-region and all-county. She looked at Samford University and Georgia College and State University before deciding to sign with Lee.
Catinella plans to major in youth ministry. “I chose Lee because I have the opportunity to pursue my passion for the ministry, and play the sport I love. I want to push myself and my teammates to get better every practice in our fielding, speed, strength, friendship and our faith.” She was a member of the BETA Club and National Honor Society at South Forsyth.
Said Russell, “Frankie is a speedster that we are excited to have on our team. She played travel ball with Amber and they both have great experience again tough competition. She has played all outfield positions. Frankie is excited about coming to Lee and her enthusiasm will be great for our program.”
JESSE GILES also played for coach Jones at Harrison High School. Another outfielder, she hit .360 last season and blasted five homers and 13 doubles. She finished with 30 RBIs. Playing for the Atlanta Vipers in summer ball, Giles battled .350 with an on-base percentage of .470. She has played in national tournaments for the last six years.
Giles walked away with several awards during her high school career. When she was a sophomore her club placed second in the Georgia 5A State and the club reached the Elite 8 last season. A scholar-athlete, Giles also ran track for Harrison High.
“I liked the campus, the people and the religious background,” said Giles. “I also enjoyed the softball team, coach Russell and how close Lee is to my home. I want to continue to improve my game as well as help the team win a championship. I also want to develop friendships with members of the team.
“Jesse was a great late find for us,” noted Russell. “The softball world is small and Jesse’s dad coached Angie Hughes this summer and Jesse and Amber are school ball teammates. Jesse is a great combination of speed and strength. We are excited to have another outstanding athlete join our program. She will compete immediately for time on the field.”
SHELBY GILREATH comes to Lee from Calvary Christian Academy in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. As a catcher she played for her father, coach Lee Gilreath. Last season she hit .421 with seven homers and 12 doubles. Gilreath was named to the 2012 Sun-Sentinel & Miami Herald first team. She also earned all-county and Miracle Sports All-State honors.
Gilreath plans to major in early childhood education and become a preschool owner and operator. “My selection of Lee was based on the environment of the school, the reputation of the early childhood education program, and the competitive nature of the softball program is what I was looking for. I want to continue to grow as an athlete, improve on my game, make good grades and make new friends.”
“Shelby was a great find for us behind the plate,” said Russell. “She has a tremendous amount of athletic ability. We are excited about her arm strength. ... She has a very strong arm and is a power hitter. She will be a good fit for us and I am sure that she will thrive with the leadership of Meghan Macias behind the plate with her.”
HOLLEY GRAY played second base for coach Troy Smith at Lincoln County High School and hopes to be a utility middle infielder for the Lady Flames. She displayed some power for Lincoln County, blasting 12 home runs and ripping nine doubles. She batted .375 in high school and .400 in summer ball.
As a sophomore she was tops in the state in homers and helped Lincoln win the district title for three straight years and the region title twice. Her team has reached substate play for the past three seasons.
“I was so impressed with the Lee coaching staff and how the girls on the team bonded so well,” said Gray. “Every time I asked a softball player if they enjoyed playing at Lee, they all responded in such an affirmative way. The second I stepped on campus, I knew Lee was where I wanted to be.”
Gray said she wanted to train harder than anyone else. “I want to be a leader on and off the field. I want to give the glory for whatever success we have to God. I want to excel academically as well,” she added. Gray is an honor student at Lincoln County and a member of the Beta Club and Mid-State All-Academic Team. She will carry an education major and hopes to become a Wilson Language Professor (helping those with reading problems).
“Holley is a small but powerful player,” said Russell. “She is exciting to watch and plays with a lot of heart and passion. We are excited to have Holley join our program. She is a very talented player that will have a great career as a Lady Flame.”
QILEY LEWIS played at Hillgrove High School. An outfielder, she hit .398 and had a .473 on-base percentage in summer ball this past year. Qiley said she selected Lee because it was one of the better schools she visited and offers the degree in athletic training she was seeking.
Russell called Lewis a speedy outfielder from the Atlanta area. “She can both hit and slap at the plate. She makes it look easy in the outfield and has a great range tracking the ball. Qiley has worked very hard with coaches on her game and I feel that she will come into her own at Lee.”
RACHEL POLACEK will come from South Salem High School in Salem, Ore., to play for coach Russell and the Lady Flames. A multitalented athlete she did it all for coach Scott McCormick, playing the outfield, third base, catching and pitching.
“Coach Russell is an amazing person as well as coach,” said Polacek. “She is like a mom figure to me which is important since I will be thousands of miles from home. The campus is beautiful and Lee has a reputation for developing excellence in all areas of a person’s life. I will be surrounded by caring, kind and loving people who I know will make me feel welcome.”
“Rachel is a great athlete,” commented Russell. “She is a strong-hitting player that is comfortable in the outfield as well as in the infield. She has played high-level ball on the West Coast and has faced great pitching and competition out there. We are excited to have Rachel join our program. She will contribute in so many ways to the program and the school.”
ANNABETH PRUETT is another recruit from the state of Georgia. She played for coach Lacy McClendon at Prince Avenue Christian School. At 6 feet tall, Pruett played first base and in the outfield in high school. She batted .479 and enjoyed a .593 on-base percentage. A four-year starter, she holds the Prince Avenue school record for home runs, on-base percentage, walks, doubles and triples. As an all-region performer she helped her team win the region title three of the past four years and finish second and third in state tournament play.
After considering Georgia College and State University, Savannah State, Alderson-Broaddus, Agnes Scott, LaGrange, Wesleyan, Covenant and Georgia Highlands, Pruett said she chose Lee “for its Christian environment that will foster my spiritual growth. The Lady Flames have an awesome softball program that I can’t wait to join. My family has a strong history with multiple alumni from Lee.”
Pruett will enter Lee as a premed major and hopes to become a physician’s assistant in orthopedics. She ranked third in her high school class (4.07 GPA) and is a member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society, is an AP Scholar and has placed on the Headmaster Honor Roll every semester.
“We have been watching Annabeth for several years,” noted Russell. “She really can do it all. She is a very fast and agile player that has great size. She is nearly 6 feet tall and moves very well. She can hit and slap and she plays outfield, infield and is a very good pitcher as well. She is an aggressive base runner and we are excited to have her join our program.“
There could be more new recruits to come, according to the Lee coach. “We will have at least one signee in the regular signing period, as we have a verbal commitment from another very talented player. We are very excited about this class. It will rival some of the best that we have ever had. The last two years have really been outstanding signing classes, and I am excited about having them on the field together, along with the upperclassmen that have been standouts for us during their careers as well.”