Hayley Cruthers recently committed to Ball State University achieving her dream to play college softball. The Cardinals have won the Mid American Conference Regular Season Championship (MAC - NCAA Division 1) 3 times in the last 4 years under Coach Craig Nicholson. Coach Nicholson is looking forward to having Hayley join the team next year and expects her to make an immediate impact in the lineup. The Swartz Creek All-State Left-Handed Short-Stop will be playing First Base and Outfield for the Cardinals, which are the positions she has played the last 3 years with her travel team - Finesse Fastpitch 18U ASA Gold & Premier. The Swartz Creek View & Mlive were on hand and also published articles.
Hayley was joined by many of the Swartz Creek & Finesse coaches, friends, and family to celebrate her achievement. Last year's Area Player of the Year will join her friend and former Flint Metro League softball star from Fenton Sammi Cowger, who is a freshman at Ball State this season. Hayley was recruited by several schools including Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Indiana State, North Dakota, West Point (Army), Northwood, Hillsdale, and more. On her visit to Ball State she really liked the campus, coaches, and athletic facilities. They are also building a new softball stadium, which is to be ready in time for the 2014 season. She plans to major in Business/Finance and Ball State is one of the nation's top ranked Business Schools. Playing in the MAC will also give her family & friends the opportunity to watch her play more often as many of the colleges are within a couple hours drive.
"Hayley has been extremely fortunate to have had so many great people's help and support over the years," her father Greg Cruthers said. "The entire Swartz Creek softball community including the coaches, athletic boosters, parents, and fans are awesome. We have a beautiful softball complex, new uniforms and equipment, the best game announcer Chuck VanCamp, folks like Diane Burt volunteering to work the concessions and Bob Herbers keeping score, Mike & Karen Hinspeter running the Youth League for all these years, graduated players coming back to help/coach, Rod & Dana Southwell's coaching and awards banquet planning, the Dragon's number 1 fan Jake Brisendine, and one of the best Varsity Coaches in high school softball."
"Rick Clolinger has done so much for the entire Swartz Creek Softball Program over the years. The fields were a sand-lot joke when he took over. Now they're the envy of the state. The program didn't win many games. Now we defending League, District, and Regional Champions. We have a scoreboard and dugouts that are better than many colleges. The fields and complex are kept in immaculate condition thanks to the countless hours of work he puts in on them. And he has always been there to let us use the fields for practice and work out during the week or on the weekends. He turned around the softball program in Swartz Creek instilling a sense of pride that had not existed before. And my daughter's Brooke & Hayley as well as all the other players past and present have greatly benefitted from what Rick has done and continues to do. We cannot say thank you enough to Rick and everybody else who has made softball fun in Swartz Creek."
Swartz Creek Coaches: Scott Henry, Amy Messer, Rod Southwell, Rick Clolinger, Brooke Cruthers, & Dave Stamm
Hayley and her family are excited and relieved to have the college recruiting process come to and end. Now they look forward to seeing Hayley just play the game she loves in her final season with the hopes of helping the Dragons get to the State Championships.
Greg Cruthers said, "During the summer after her freshman year is when the college's really began watching her taking notice of her power hitting, athleticism, and strong arm. Since then it was non-stop with coaches at virtually every summer game she played. She attended countless softball camps at those schools as well. The whole process is a lot like a roller coaster ride for your emotions. Sometimes you get positive feedback and other times you get nothing. Last summer was especially intense with dozens of coaches at every game. At the Independence Day Tournament in Boulder Colorado Hayley was selected to play in the 2013's All-Star Game. It was a bit intimidating. There were hundreds of coaches watching. And unlike many tournaments where only the assistant coaches attend, these were the head coaches from schools like Alabama, Arizona State, Georgia, UCLA, Michigan, Texas, etc. She always said she didn't pay attention to who was at the games over the years, but that game was insane."
He added, "The travel was also brutal. In the fall we played in Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Orlando, and a few in Michigan. In the summer all but one of the tournaments were out of state and typically started on Wednesdays going through Sunday. We went to Chicago, Indianapolis, Boulder, Oklahoma City, and Huntington Beach. The last 2 tournaments were ASA Gold and Premier Nationals and we were on the road for over 2 weeks solid. And Finesse has 3 hour practices all winter long on Sundays at Total Sports in Wixom. But, that's what it takes to prepare to play at the highest level. You have to work hard year round on every aspect of the game."
"And you have to play the best competition possible if you want to play Division 1 college softball. Virtually every pitcher Hayley faces playing with Finesse throws at least 60mph, has multiple pitches like the rise, drop, curve, screw, change, etc., can hit the corners with consistency, and is already or will be committed to play Division 1 college softball. You rarely get a ball down the middle of the plate. It is a humbling experience seeing that kind of pitching every game. The game is so much faster too especially when playing the Southern California and South West teams. And this is what Hayley's always wanted. She dreamed of playing D1 and to make it to the College World Series."
Hayley has played with Finesse for 7 years now. She's received a lot of great coaching and game experience over the years. She's also made many friendships that will surely last a lifetime. She's had teammates from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, New York, while the majority are from South East Michigan. And nearly all of them have gone on to play or like her, will be going on to play college softball. There is no other travel club in Michigan where players can get this much exposure to college coaches.
"From the first Finesse fall tryout she attended at the age of 10 when she competed with some 50 other players for 6 open spots on the team to this year's tryouts with hundreds of hopefuls, she has always been extremely humble and quiet about her accomplishments and success." Greg Cruthers said. "She's just not a rah-rah loud girl. Coaches love her because she's a team player and is very coachable. And she has sense of humor that her teammates also like. She always seems to be smiling and making others smile. Her mother and I are extremely proud of her for her softball accomplishments, but mostly for the young woman she has become. She's given us so many fond memories and we're absolutely looking forward to more."
Finesse Fastpitch Coaches: Tommie Walker, Alec Lesko, & Bill Arnold
Grandparents Karen & Gary Pray and Parents Brenda & Greg Cruthers and Sister Brooke Cruthers
Friends & Teammates Emily Rodriguez, Andrea Aldridge, & Carah Pletscher and Coach Nellie Guajardo.
Friends J.D. Tisdale & Shawn Brouwer and with Sister & Assistant Varsity Coach Brooke Cruthers