Haff a finalist for National Freshman of the Year

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Freshman Mary Haff earned all three wins for Arkansas in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and improved to 29-6 on the season.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Freshman Mary Haff earned all three wins for Arkansas in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and improved to 29-6 on the season.

— Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel gathered her softball team around the pitcher's circle at Bogle Park on Wednesday morning to relay the news.

Star pitcher Mary Haff had been named a finalist for National Freshman of the Year, which will be chosen by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and announced next Tuesday.

One player called for Haff to make a speech, but the program's single-season wins leader humbly declined. Third baseman Autumn Buczek said she wasn't surprised that Haff is up for the award.

"That’s absolutely incredible. We have this new thing on our team where instead of saying, ‘unbelievable,’ when something great happens," Buczek said. "We say, ‘It’s totally believable,’ because we know that we can do it. Her being in that position is completely believable, she deserves it, she works her butt off, she’s so composed and is so great or our team.

"She’s lifted us to whole new heights that couldn’t have even been imagined in the past."

Haff is one of three finalists for the award, alongside Michigan pitcher Meghan Beaubien (33-6, 1.16 ERA) and Oklahoma utility player Jocelyn Alo, who leads the NCAA with 26 home runs and has 67 RBI. Haff and Alo will square off this weekend in the NCAA Super Regional between the Razorbacks and Sooners in Norman, Okla.

Deifel rarely keeps her cell phone on her during practice, but was thrilled she did Wednesday. She received a text from Carol Bruggeman, Executive Director of the NFCA, passing congratulations on to Haff.

Deifel then told Haff in that moment and the two shared a hug.

"She's so deserving, and over the course of the year she's been so consistent," Deifel said. "She continues to make herself better. It's pretty amazing everything she's done as a freshman. She has such an ability, and it really reaches beyond her skillset.

"I think that’s one of the coolest things about Mary is if you ask her about her individual accomplishments she immediately puts it on the team and what the team’s done around her. That pretty much sums up who Mary Haff is. She is the epitome of a team player, and she is going to go out there and doing her job."

Deifel recalls a couple of weeks ago when a media outlet asked Haff about her strikeout totals, which, as of now, sits at 246, and the freshman deflected and instead credited her teammates.

"I couldn’t really care less about strikeouts," Haff said. "I’m just out there helping my team win."

Haff, with three wins last weekend in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Bogle Park, enters super regional play with a program-record 29 wins and a 1.35 ERA. Her 11 shutouts place her in a tie for 11th nationally.

On March 2, Haff threw the seventh no-hitter in program history in a 9-0 win against Northern Colorado. Haff has also recorded seven one-hitters.

Senior Tori Cooper loves the composure she's seen from Haff in the circle this season.

"She’s just try calm and collected even when she’s not at the softball field," Cooper said. "Honestly, I think that’s such a huge part of our success. When she’s on the mound, we just feel so calm and we’re able to play defense behind her without that stress, and no jitters from her."

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