PREP SOFTBALL

Merrillville's Mercedes drives with power and a flashy look

2012-04-13T18:00:00Z 2012-08-28T23:40:26Z Merrillville's Mercedes drives with power and a flashy lookBy Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | It shouldn't surprise anyone that Mercedes McClendon played baseball growing up. She barely even knew of the game of softball.

Her uncle, Lloyd McClendon, is the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers. The Merrillville senior lived in Gary until she was seven. Then her family moved south.

"My father didn't like cheerleading, so he had me play with the boys," McClendon said of hitting baseballs all over the yard as a youngster. "I learned about softball the summer of my eighth-grade year, so I tried it, and I liked it."

As a freshman McClendon had the lowest batting average for the Pirates. The "rise ball" had her fishing. Those days ended long ago, though.

She batted .475 (28-of-59) as a sophomore with nine doubles and two home runs. She had five of the team's 22 total RBIs. Last year McClendon was 18-of-42 (.429) with two home runs and six of the team's 21 RBIs.

This year, through Tuesday's game against Valparaiso, McClendon is batting .500 (8-of-16) with two doubles and two RBIs. Her on-base percentage is .579.

All this on a team that's won six games in three seasons.

"I heard a lot about her when I started here," first-year Merrillville coach Dave Lopez said. "I heard she's a handful. She's fun, loud and she sometimes wears her emotions on her sleeve. I've coached a lot of very good players through the years and Mercedes is one of the best."

South Suburban College has shown a lot of interest in the power-hitting infielder. But every day when she walks to the field there are two signs that point to Merrillville's state titles in 1994 and 1997.

There are cob webs on the signs. In girls sports, Merrillville is a basketball town now, but Lopez and McClendon are trying to change all of that.

"My dad bought me a batting cage at home," McClendon said. "It's just rep, rep, rep and reps."

Getting younger girls in the community to play the game 12 months is all it will take to put Merrillville back on the softball map.

"The big thing right now is the lack of enthusiasm for the game," said Lopez, who used to coach at Griffith. "I've got to get the girls here excited about softball. There was no excitement at first. But we're working on that."

McClendon used to get upset after an error or a walk or a strikeout. The scoreboard hung heavy on the gal who plays winning travel softball in the summer.

Lopez said she always encouraged the inexperienced Pirates when they made a mistake. But she would make a face when she made an error. Lopez let her know that the Pirates were feeding off that negative energy.

"I have to find a way to correct our franchise," McClendon said. "To me I'm blessed to be on this team. A good player on a good team gets pushed to the back. I want the girls on our team to keep improving.

"We want to play our best softball once sectionals get here."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best boys tennis team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News

Latest Local Offers

Featured Businesses