At first glance, Shiner's Heather Haas isn't very intimidating. She almost looks like she arrives to the softball field straight from the mall.
Heather Haas has a 20-6 record and 1.16 ERA heading into Thursday's Class 1A state semifinal game against McLeod. photo by Harry Reese, Special to the Advocate
But after the sophomore steps on the mound, it usually takes only one pitch for her to get her opponents' undivided attention.
"The ones that don't know her may underestimate her when they first see her walking to the mound," Shiner coach Brandon Siegel said. "But when they see her warm up, they go, 'Uh-oh.' "
"Heather doesn't look very scary and intimidating," teammate Morgan Ullmann said. "But when she throws her first pitch and everybody hears that first pop, people get scared."
Haas had the D'Hanis batters flinching Thursday night when she tossed a two- hit shutout with eight strikeouts in the Lady Comanches' 4-0 Class 1A regional final victory that sent them to the state tournament for the second year in a row. Haas also struck fear in the Cowgirls from the plate with a solo home run. For her performance against D'Hanis, Haas was named the Advocate's Athlete of the Week.
But while intimidation is a key part of Haas' game, there are times when she has to control her intensity. Against D'Hanis, she began trying to strike everybody out and wound up struggling in the sixth and seventh innings.
"Sometimes she does try to overthrow and when she starts doing that, she starts losing her composure," Shiner coach Brandon Siegel said. "But I think that's her competitive nature kicking in. She just wants to exceed and be the best out there on the field."
When those times come, Haas just recalls a simple saying first told to her by her personal pitching coach.
"Ever since I was little, if a pitch didn't work and I would get frustrated, Robert Maxey would always tell me, 'If it was easy, then everybody would be able to do it,' " said Haas, who will take a 20-6 record and 1.16 ERA into Thursday's 8:30 a.m. semifinal against McLeod. "Every time something is not going my way or if I'm trying too hard, that saying always comes to mind."
Her teammates are also always there to help her through the rough times on the mound.
"When the pitches don't go her way, she'll look at me and I'll tell her, 'Calm down. You'll get the next one,' " said sophomore Paige Michalec, who has played with Haas since tee-ball.
Catcher Maci Schaefer, Shiner's only senior, is amazed at how much Haas has matured the last two seasons.
"Heather is very competitive," Schaefer said. "She always pushes herself to be better. She's become a true leader and a lot of people look up to her. She has done an awesome job of taking over a leadership role."