Hayley Lewis swears she's an outfielder by trade, but you'd never know it by looking at her high school career.
More important to her than playing in the outfield is helping her team win. So when her coaches at Jay M. Robinson over the years have had holes to fill in the Bulldog starting lineup, Lewis has been more than willing to accommodate.
As a freshman, she pitched a season for the junior varsity team while her last two seasons on varsity have been spent behind the plate as a catcher.
Lewis' commitment to improvement turned her into an All-South Piedmont Conference player and last fall she signed a national letter-of-intent to play for UNC Charlotte next year.
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Lewis was introduced to Robinson coach Jim Allen when she started playing travelling tournament softball at the age of 10. She played for Allen's Magic club team for two seasons when she was 12- and 13-years old.
"I remember his famous mustache... which hasn't changed," said Lewis with a chuckle.
Playing as an outfielder, Lewis helped the Magic capture fourth place at the National Softball Association's World Championship Tournament in Rock Hill in 2005.
As a freshman at Robinson in the 2008 season, Lewis offered to pitch because "we didn't have anybody else to do it." Though she hadn't pitched since playing for a 10-under team, Lewis was named the Bulldogs' most valuable player.
The next year, Lewis played her only high school season at her natural position. She developed into a part-time starter in the outfield and at second base.
Robinson was playing its last season in the ME-CA 7 4A Conference and it finished behind Central Cabarrus, North Mecklenburg and Hopewell and reached the state playoffs.
Pitching for North Meck that year was Jim Allen's daughter, Sara, who is scheduled to play at Winthrop next year. Fostering a relationship with both Allens would help Lewis over the next couple of seasons.
Allen became Robinson's coach prior to the last season. During fall workouts he approached Lewis about becoming the team's catcher.
"We said here are the needs of the team," said Jim Allen. "We know she can catch. She has filled in for people and has been able to get the job done. She was like, 'Sure I'll do it.'"
To prepare her, Allen was able to take Lewis, Robinson pitcher Dallas King, and his daughter, still pitching at North Meck, to a weekly camp at Winthrop. They went once a week for 90-minutes sessions for 10 weeks.
"Catching Sara was pretty difficult," said Lewis. "Because she was pretty quick and a little wild at times working on her pitches. It made me use my body more to block the ball and move around and expect the unexpected."
Lewis responded with a season in which she was named all-conference and all-district. She led the team with a .415 batting average and with 10 doubles.
By Allen's count, opponents stole on her only three times all season. Robinson won the SPC regular season and tournament and reached the state quarterfinals for the first time.
To increase her exposure to college coaches, Lewis joined the Lady Lightning tournament team last summer. An honor roll student who is ranked in the top 15 in her graduating class, Lewis says the 49ers recruited her as a utility player, but more specifically they think she can contribute at her natural position: outfield.