BOULDER — Haley Henson is not alone. Not even on her own team.
It’s now officially past July 4, and the to-be senior center fielder for the Texas Blaze 18U softball team still is weighing options as the so-dubbed recruiting door is closing. But Henson is comfortable with the situation she’s in, in part because of her teammates.
The Blaze is buoyed by a substantial amount of players from the Class of 2014, and Henson is one of them. While many have made their college choices known, the Round Rock High School product is one of five from her class that began the summer unsigned. Joining her as seniors still peering out over the landscape were infielder/outfielder Jade Jameson, infielder/outfielder Katie Andrie, pitcher Kayla Donaldson, and pitcher Taylor Simmonds.
Within the past few weeks, Simmonds and Donaldson have come to decisions — the same, in a manner, as both have verbal commitments to Texas-Arlington.
For Henson and Andrie, whose squad was in Boulder as part of the Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament, it’s been fun and comforting knowing they’re a part of a group all in a similar journey this summer.
“I feel like the commitments that the other girls get, it just makes us closer together because we are so happy for them when it happens. Like a sisterhood,” said Henson, who has 12 teammates verbally committed to college ball. “I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get that opportunity to make that decision and commit somewhere.”
“Yeah, definitely I think that we get along pretty close because we kind of know what each other’s going through. We know that we’re going to get nervous at times, and we talk about it,” Andrie said. “It helps to have people in the same situation with you.”
With college choice being such a personal decision, there’s not a lot the girls can do for each other outside of positive encouragement. That comes on the diamond during games but also in the plane rides, during postgame team dinners and even a random phone call or text message.
For the Blaze, whose girls play high school ball in the spring season, the Boulder tournament is a kickoff to a busy month of travel. In a little more than a week, they’ll be in Reno, Nev. for the Triple Crown Softball Gold Championships, and then it’s Huntington Beach, Calif., for the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships at the front end of August.
So, there’s still plenty time to be seen. But Henson and Andrie aren’t waiting to make plays. In the Blaze’ 8-8 tie against the Peppers (which put them at 1-3-1 in pool play with another game played later Friday night), Henson made a spectacular diving catch in the first inning and went 2-for-3 at the plate. She showed her speed by beating out an infield grounder to the second baseman as one of those hits.
Andrie went 0-for-3 at the plate but made a solid play at third to help salvage the tie.
“There’s been of coaches at our games. I just need to take advantage of those opportunities and see where it takes me,” Henson said.
“I know there are schools out there still looking for girls in our age group, so I just go out there in game situations and play my best,” added Andrie. “It’s nerve-wracking going out there knowing girls who are younger than you are committing, but at the end of the day you just have to know that whatever happens, happens.”
It hasn’t been very typical for the Blaze program to have such a large contingent of girls starting the summer without a commitment, Blaze coach JB Slimp said. And that has nothing to do with the talent level and everything to do with the recruiting wave that took place in the past couple of years.
Even so, Slimp expects all of his players to pledge their allegiance very soon.
“What’s different this year is the recruiting process is accelerating faster than before. My 2013’s when they were going into their fall season (2012), there were more opportunities for those girls,” Slimp said. “Last fall, for our 2014’s who were not committed, the opportunities were a lot less. The schools had gotten a lot of their 2014’s earlier. That’s been a progression for five or six years, but this year it really came to a head.
“We had a large class of 2014’s … that was already a challenge. All of our girls have interest, and I would expect all of them to be verballed within the next month. It’s about looking at every opportunity before they pull the trigger.”
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