Haley Cruse does anything that requires her team to win. She stepped to the mound in a time of need even though she hasn’t pitched since freshman year of high school. She hit a clutch home run to seal a comeback victory earlier this season. She can also dance to a mean beat.
The Oregon softball outfielder has battled throughout the entire season on and off the field. She faced the pressure filling in the shoes of her teammates last year all while dealing with coaching and roster changes. Her importance as a leader has helped pave the mindset of her younger teammates to work hard, have fun and to become leaders of their own.
“I think this year is really about coming together and figuring out our identity as a team and a program,”Cruse said.
Transitioning into this year, developing a young team consisting of 10 freshmen was going to be a challenge. Cruse was the only returning starter from last year’s Women’s College World Series squad.
“With change, there’s always going to be a different atmosphere,” she said. “Change is always difficult but I think that we’ve brought in a lot of talented people this year.”
She knows that this season of transition needs to be embraced by everyone. Maybe adding in a little dancing fun is what the team and fans needed. Last season Cruse was the one looking up to her older teammates, but now the younger group of women are looking up to her. It also helps when you have one of the best batting averages and the most runs on the team.
Taking freshman infielder Jasmine Sievers under her wing this year has helped Cruse, a junior, be more vocal and outspoken when stepping into her role as a leader. Cruse always had that leadership mentality, but this year she started to be more outgoing with her mentoring role.
Sievers believes Cruse and the other upperclassmen have done a great job in leading the team and keeping morale high throughout the season.
“We always get each other through things,” Sievers said. “We always pick each other up and I don’t think there’s been a time that we’ve all been down.”
Sievers has a front-row seat this season looking at Cruse for advice and guidance. She continues to learn from her and potentially be shaped into a leader for next season.
She is Cruse’s wing-woman for their pregame dance videos, which have received almost 300,000 views on Twitter. These viral videos gain nationwide attention with their choreographed dances to catchy songs such as “Hotel Motel” by Pitbull. Their combinations of shimmies, leg kicks and synchronized body rolls grasped viewer’s attentions.
“Some of the social media stuff that you see, I think that gives her a way to express herself,” head coach Melyssa Lombardi said. “You get to see that she’s a good dancer, you get to see that she’s funny, you get to see that you can tell she really cares about this team.”
Sievers said she and Cruse are very close off the field and believes that carries into their play on the field. Especially with doubters this season, Sievers has seen the way the veteran carries herself in the media and the locker room and admires how she sets an example for the team.
“We’re very close on and off the field so I think that carries into our play,” Sievers said.
The freshman still has opportunities to learn from her teammate and maybe learn some more dance moves from her along the way too.