Erica “E” Hayes is a freshman on Western Carolina University’s softball team. Hayes plays second base and is currently batting
second in the lineup. She has started 25 out of 26 games this season despite being one of only five freshmen on the team.
Hayes wears number 27 in reference to her favorite baseball player, Mike Trout. Trout is an outfielder for the MLB team the Los Angeles Angels. In his five seasons in MLB, he has been an All-Star every year, won MVP twice and was runner-up the other three years.
Stepping straight out of high school and onto a collegiate softball team is no easy feat, but Hayes’ statistics prove she has earned her starting spot. Her batting average this season is .304. She began the season batting seventh out of nine in the lineup, but was impressive enough that coach Jim Clift moved her all the way to second. She has scored nine runs herself and registered 12 RBIs (runs batted in). In 79 times at bat she has struck out only 17 times and has hit two homeruns. Defensively her production remains high as she only has four errors on the season.
Hayes never claims her success to be entirely her own.
“I’d have to say God and my dad are my biggest motivators. God gave me the talent to
play this sport at this level; I owe it all to him. My dad always pushes me to be the best I can be. He always believes in me, so I naturally want to do my best for him,” said Hayes.
Hayes has been playing softball since she was eight years old. Throughout middle and high school, she played basketball and volleyball, as well, but chose to pursue softball longterm. Her search led her to Western Carolina, where she quickly grew to love the area.
“I love the mountains and the feel of WCU itself. It’s so beautiful and feels like home,” she said.
Hayes has certainly felt at home on the team, as well. Her favorite memory of the season is the pregame dance party the team held at their game in Charleston. The team enjoys cutting loose when they can, but when it is time to get serious, Hayes firmly believes they are a team to be feared.
“I feel that our team is scrappy. We definitely ‘scratch and claw’ as we say. We have great team chemistry and work well together. By no stretch of the imagination are we some power house team, but we have grit and passion and I know that can take us to some awesome places,” Hayes said.
It is hard not to get behind a belief as strong as that. Hayes is having a fun time this season, but her competitive nature is impatient for the conference tournament to start.
“I’m looking forward to showing the rest of our conference what we got. People tell us we’re a ‘young’ team, but I think age is just a number. Being a young team has nothing on us,” said Hayes.
Until the tournament, Hayes will be working hard in practice and gaining valuable game experience. In the time she is not on the field, Hayes takes full advantage of the Western Carolina experience. Taking in nature is one of her main hobbies.
“I go outside whenever I get the chance, especially during the summer,” she said.
On top of being an athlete, Hayes is pursuing a major in Inclusive Education with plans to work in an elementary school.
She wants “to be a resource room teacher who works with certain students daily who have special needs or small learning disabilities.”
She believes teachers are overlooked, and understands the true effect of their work.
“I think it’s so important and underrated. I want to make an impact on children’s lives through teaching them one day,” said Hayes.
Hayes has smoothly made the transition from high school to collegiate athletics. Her statistics do not lie; she is a valuable piece of the team. Western Carolina cannot wait to see how she finishes this season and how she continues to grow and impact the program in her next three years.
Visit www.catamountsports.com to keep up with Hayes’ progress this season and make sure to check the schedule and come out to support the team.