Third time was the charm for Lovie Haley and her softball travel team, the Jax Fusion. Expecting to win a bid to the 2015 National World Series in March, the girls were knocked out of the tournament, and, a few weeks later, they cruised all the way to the championship game to qualify for Nationals, only to come up short again.
“It was pretty disappointing,” Haley said. “It was hard seeing the other team so happy that they got to go, and we didn’t get to.”
Last month, armed with disappointment and a new focus, Haley’s Fusion found themselves in another championship game to reach the Junior Olympic Nationals, but this time they made the most of their opportunity and blew out the runners-up to clinch the championship and punch their ticket to the ASA/USA Junior Olympic Nationals in California, the highest honor for a softball player at her age level.
“It felt pretty amazing,” said Haley, about finally making it to Nationals and becoming a Junior Olympian. “It’s been a long, hard road of hard work.”
“She spends a great deal of time on the road away from her friends,” said Vicky Haley, her mother. “She has to do homework on the road, has to study in a hotel room, and she’s still an honor student. She’s in advanced placement academics and makes honor roll every quarter. To do all of that on top of her sports is hard work.”
There was nothing easy about Haley’s journey to becoming a junior Olympian pitcher. She began playing softball four years ago, but things didn’t go so well at first.
“At the beginning, she wasn’t a good pitcher,” Vicky Haley said. “One of the reasons why we left (Palm Coast) Little League is because a coach told her that pitching wasn’t her thing, but she was 8 years old, and that’s what she wanted to do. I wasn’t going to tell her that she couldn’t do what she wanted to do. So, we got her help, and now she is at where she’s at.”
A couple of years ago, Haley got the opportunity to meet Florida Gator Lauren Haeger, the reigning NCAA softball champion, and, arguably, the greatest pitcher in NCAA history.
“She told Lovie that when she started out, she wasn’t the best pitcher, either,” said John Haley, Lovie Haley’s father. “She had to work hard, and that’s why Lovie works as hard as she does.”
“She was very encouraging and personable to me,” Haley said. “She’s, like, my idol. Every time I go out there, I want to be like her.”
While she’s only 12, she pitches in the low 50 mph range, which is close to the average high school pitcher.
Haley’s softball success, community work and academic prowess have earned her the position of Junior Ambassador for the National Bondi Band Athletic Headwear Co. With all of her softball dreams coming true, Haley take pride in her journey and the diligence it takes to get there.
“I think the grind is a lot of hard work, but it’s pretty amazing to see the results at the end,” she concluded.
HALEY'S TROPHY CASE
- NSA-Florida State Champion
- USFA Carrolton Classic winner
- ASA-USA Junior Olympic qualifier
- All-American Team member