Sara Haefeli possessed what it took defensively to be the starting center fielder for the Seton Hall softball team last year.
The problems lied at the plate. Haefeli’s junior season was her first as a scholarship player for the Pirates, and it was tough one offensively. The right-hander hit just .212 at the dish. But, Haefeli has been The Hall’s most improved player in the 2015 campaign thus far. The senior is hitting .313 and is second on the team with a .717 slugging percentage. She has hammered 11 home runs, which is second in the Big East, making her a player of the year candidate in the league.
Haefeli is satisfied with her progress, and the keys to her success are no secret.
Q: What has been the key to transitioning from a tough junior year to what has been an outstanding senior season?
A: “Sheer determination. I have the mindset that a pitcher can’t beat me when I step up to the plate. Last year, I’ll admit, mentally I was not completely right. But I’ve put it behind me. I came to an epiphany that if I play my game, good things are going to happen. I’m just trying to do me, to be Sara Haefeli”
Q: Do you feel like you can hit just about anything right now?
A: “Absolutely. It’s about having a little bit of an edge. I’ve tried to have some more cockiness at the plate. Yes, I always want to stay humble. But there’s something about being aggressive too. Our senior class has tried to create more of that culture this season.”
Q: What makes you think this team can do something special in the postseason?
A: “We know we only reached 14 wins last season. That was hard to swallow, but what makes me think that this season is special is that this team meshes both on and off the field. It all comes down to focus. We have to mentally have the will to win. This team has that type of an edge this season. There’s more of a toughness in place.”
Q: What has Coach Smith done for you as a player throughout your time at Seton Hall?
A: “She’s set a foundation for this program and she’s focused on doing the little things in order to win. One thing that Coach (Smith) has established that was not in place with the program before she got here is that we pick each other up. It may seem so little, but she’s created a culture. Every player realizes that there’s a lot more going on than what they do individually in a game. The other thing that Coach (Smith) has done is she believes in me. She respects me. And that’s made me want to play really hard for her. I think my fellow teammates can agree. She lights a fire under us. That’s made me a better player.”
Q: How can you be a legitimate postseason contender?
A: “Yogi Berra said it, “The game is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” We have to be ready mentally to win games. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to have success. It’s as simple as that. And it starts this weekend.”
At 4-4 and in third in the Big East entering a crucial road weekend in league play, the Pirates will take on the Creighton Bluejays, losers of three in a row, this weekend in Omaha, Neb. Go to thesetonian.com for complete updates on The Hall as the blue and white are in pursuit of a postseason berth.