Mt. Pleasant freshman Brunson commits to to Louisiana-Lafayette softball
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 6:42 PM
Another day, another Westmoreland County freshman softball player making Division I college plans.
A second ninth-grader from Mt. Pleasant accepted a scholarship offer from a high-level program with infielder Haylie Brunson announcing her commitment to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Last week, two freshmen, Mt. Pleasant's Courtney Poulich (Liberty) and Hempfield's Emma Hoffner (St. Francis, Pa.), made verbal commitments.
Colleges are offering much earlier as they try to capitalize on promising potential they see on the travel softball circuit, before someone else does.
Brunson is a shining example of that. She doesn't even play in Pennsylvania, instead spending travel season with the Beverly Bandits program in Chicago.
“You have to play the best to be the best,” said Team Pennsylvania travel coach Phil Larcinese, who coached Brunson in the past.
Brunson plays shortstop and third base for Beverly.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play at a top-25 softball program in the country,” she said. “(Louisiana) goes to the Regional every year, and they've been to the World Series.”
Louisiana-Lafayette finished 47-8 last season, reaching the NCAA Regionals where it finished 2-2.
The Ragin' Cajuns will open this season ranked in the top 25 in two preseason polls: No. 22 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 24 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
“I've played against the best travel teams in the country and at (Premier Girls Fastpitch) nationals for the past three years,” Brunson said. “I've also played against girls going to other top-25 programs, and I have had success. That success has given me the confidence to know that I can play at the highest level.”
Mt. Pleasant won the PIAA Class 4A championship last season and is primed to make a run at WPIAL and state titles again.
“Hailey puts in more time and work than any player I know,” Mt. Pleasant junior pitcher Carolyn Alincic said. “I'm ecstatic to have so much talent coming through this year. We're definitely going to have a really great season.”
The youthful recruiting trend has gripped the county in recent years. Players are grabbing Division I offers before they even step on the field for a varsity game.
Belle Vernon senior pitcher Bailey Parshall committed to Penn State when she was a freshman. And recent Hempfield star pitcher Morgan Ryan accepted an offer from Notre Dame when she was a sophomore.
Two underclassmen baseball players also made commitments to Division I programs. Franklin Regional freshman catcher Bryce Harper to Virginia Tech, and Hempfield sophomore pitcher Tyler Wiederstein committed to Michigan.
Harper and Wiederstein displayed their talents to college coaches at offseason showcases.