High School Sports

Pressure drives Wichita Independent's Haley McGregor

When Wichita Independent senior Haley McGregor started playing sports at age 4, her parents put her into soccer because it seemed the best option for a small, frail girl.

Soccer didn't last.

"The team is running toward the goal, and she's watching her shadow while she's running," said her father, Jay. "The ball's whizzing right by her."

Two years later, she tried T-ball. This time, the sport caught her attention.

A dozen years later, McGregor is still that competitive ballplayer. She's no longer frail but is a shortstop who has been a three-time All-Metro selection and has signed with Oklahoma.

"I've always loved being on the field," she said. "I actually do really well under pressure. That's when I play my best. I get really nervous and want to play well.

"When I was being recruited, in the summers my coaches would take us to big showcase tournaments. There'd be hundreds of scouts. They'd say, 'You can't mess up. People are here to watch you.' I love playing under pressure."

That pressure actually focuses her in more during games.

"I'm constantly thinking of where I'll go. I'm usually one step ahead, but when scouts are there, I'm like six steps ahead," she said.

McGregor is a vital component for Independent, which went into Thursday's doubleheader with Bluestem with a 2-6 record. It's quite a difference from the rest of McGregor's career with the Panthers, who finished second in Class 3A in 2008.

Playing on a young, inexperienced team hasn't slowed McGregor, who is now batting leadoff and is hitting .429. She's not flawless, but she's the player you want at shortstop.

Independent coach Megan Davison recounted the final play of a doubleheader at Great Bend last week —McGregor dived behind second base to stop the ball, touched second, then stood up to throw to first to finish the game.

"She made a phenomenal play," Davison said. "She always seems to make those plays."

McGregor's combination of defensive range, work ethic, strength and offense are keys to her success. But when pressed to name her best attribute, her dad says it's her hands.

The two often do a short hop drill — he bounces a ball about six inches to a foot in front of her. She then has to grab it and throw. It's a tough drill that usually results in blows to the shins, face or, well, anywhere.

"Your hands have to be so prepared and so quick," Jay McGregor said. "She challenges me to make her miss it. But it's how quickly she picks the ball up on a short hop or on a line drive and how quickly she releases the ball."

That defensive skill is the primary reason McGregor was recruited by Division I schools — she also made recruiting visits to Virginia Tech and South Florida.

Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso sees McGregor as being versatile enough to play other infield positions because of her athleticism and defensive skill.

"I'm excited for what her potential is in college," Gasso said."... She makes the tough plays look easy. Nothing looks hard for her. What's probably out of range for others, she'll get a glove on it."

"I'm always moving around, I'm talking to my teammates, making sure they know where they're going and I'm going," she said. "I dive for everything. Just to make an attempt, to say I tried, even if it's 10 feet away."