She's a softball coach's dream, a stat freak's delight and the kind of teammate you never forget.
Caitlin Attfield is the total package rolled into one left-handed slap hitter who graces every team she plays on. With her senior year yet to play out for Niagara Wheatfield, she's already left a legacy.
Softball fans still talk about her diving grab of a line drive against Clarence in last year's Class AA final. Her play carried the Falcons to the best season in their history (15-4), which included their first Section VI title since 1992.
She's on track to finish her high school career as a New York State record holder in multiple offensive categories, including career stolen bases.
Ah, that speed. Attfield has been clocked at 2.74 seconds running from home to first. Her wheels also come in handy at short, giving her amazing range. When it comes to footwork and arm strength, she's gifted.
"We went down to Disney for spring training and all of the opposing coaches would keep saying she was leaving [first base] early, but she's just that fast," said Jim Proefrock, who coaches the Falcons with his wife, Melanie. "The umpires couldn't stop talking about her. They said they see hundreds of shortstops, and that she's among one of the tops they've seen."
Attfield's .769 batting average in three games is not the product of an overzealous scorekeeper. She's the real deal, a thought shared by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which won a sweepstakes to get her services for the next four years. She plans a major in the field of science.
A game-changer, her numbers only tell part of the story. She earned first team All-New York State last year while batting .623 with 30 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. She's been the Niagara Frontier League Player of the Year for three consecutive season (2009-11).
She looks like a lock to become the first player to earn All-WNY four years in a row. Plenty have received the local honor three times since the team debuted in 1983, but there have been no four-peats. Statewide, she's among the all-time leaders in career stolen bases with 88. She needs 34 stolen bases to break the record of Jordan Rutkowski of Alden, who had 121 in her career (2003-2007).
Joining her as a returning All-WNYer are Jenna Allers (Williamsville East), Chelsea Calabro (Olean), Yasmin Harrell (Cheektowaga), Samantha Mott (Frewsburg) and Tori Nappo (Clarence).
The Falcons are 2-0 in the Niagara Frontier League, along with Kenmore West and Lockport. West plays at Niagara-Wheatfield on Wednesday.
Attfield is one of seven returning starters for the Falcons. Senior Alyssa Sciria was last year's co-Pitcher of the Year in the NFL. She will play next season at Buffalo State. Third baseman Ali Gonyea and first baseman Lauren DeVantier also garnered postseason honors.
Not only is Attfield an honor roll student, she's also a member of the school's symphonic and jazz bands, where she plays the alto sax. She's her school's nominee for the annual Hewitt Award, presented to one female and one male student from each high school in Niagara County. This year's ceremony is May 6, at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn.
There is plenty of talent this year in the Niagara Frontier League. Second baseman Ryleigh Fitzgerald of Lewiston-Porter has signed with the University at Buffalo.
"She is hands-down fit for our program," said Bulls coach Jen Teague. "She is a middle infielder that is very athletic, and we expect her to be a leader on and off the field."
Fitzgerald shares the middle infield with shortstop Meghan Cuda, who has signed with Canisius College. Coach Nina Calarco called the pair the team's "dynamic duo."
After dealing with injuries all last season, Kenmore East looks to stay healthy, led by shortstop Gabe Boldinski, shortstop Jaclyn Bellanti and pitcher/first baseman Gabby Johns.
Niagara Falls' returning all-stars are pitcher Kelsi Leo and outfielder Toni Polk, who made it last year as an eighth-grader.
Kenmore West is off to a 4-0 start, thanks in part to the play of three-year starter and captain Kate Miller at catcher and pitcher/first baseman Shelby Donhauser, a transfer from Williamsville North, who is batting around .750 so far.