FRANKLIN – Growing up, Franklin sophomore Haeli Bryson played many sports, however it was softball that became her favorite.
“As a little kid, I played every sport to see what I liked the best,” Bryson said.
“Softball just kind of stuck.”
That’s a good thing for the Panthers (7-4, 6-3) who are once again one of the best teams in the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference.
While Bryson is the team’s top pitcher with a 6-4 record and a 1.95 earned run average in 10 appearances, she also leads the team in hitting with a .590 batting average through 11 games.
Last year, Bryson was named the Co-Western North Carolina Athletic Conference Player of the Year after batting .538 with 28 RBIs, 15 doubles, nine home runs and four triples. She was 16-6 as a pitcher with a 1.78 earned-run average and 180 strikeouts in 134 innings.
“The crazy thing is she would play the outfield if I wanted her to,” Franklin coach Adam Tallent said. “It’s really fortunate she’s only a sophomore.”
Bryson has played every position but feels most comfortable at third base, shortstop or pitching.
“Watching her play through middle school, I knew what kind of player I was getting,” said Tallent.
She’s definitely something special.”
Bryson’s athletic ability is also matched by her intelligence during games.
“She’s making plays on defense in the pitcher’s circle,” Tallent said. “She’s very smart on the field, very athletic.”
When Bryson is in a tough situation during a game, she relies on her teammates to provide the needed support.
“I just rely on my defense. If I ever need help I can talk to Adam,” she said. “All our coaches in the dugout are really supportive.”
Other players that have been leading Franklin in hitting are Hailey Hamilton, who has a .444 batting average, 16 hits and 10 RBIs. Nichole Rogers also has an average of .444 and she is followed by Faith Borque, who has a .429 average, 12 hits and four RBIs. Caitlyn Goembal has a .361 average, 13 hits and nine RBIs.
Bryson and Borque lead the Panthers with a 1.000 fielding percentage through 11 games. Ashlynn Buchanan has a .900 fielding percentage, followed by Hamilton (.875) and freshman Paige Norton (.839).
“It’s nice knowing your team has your back,” Bryson said about the support she receives when she needs help in the field.