April 13, 2006
By Scott MacDonald
Freshmen are not supposed to come in and dominate at the collegiate level. Most do not even get a chance to play right away, especially for the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions. But that’s not the case with Tech softball standout Whitney Haller.
“I was just trying to get in here, establish myself and get a starting position,” said Haller, a native of Marietta, Ga. “I just wanted to play. That makes me happy, just being able to play.”
Just being able to play is an understatement by the first baseman and right-handed pitcher. Haller broke the ACC single-season home run record with 19 thus far after 50 games. She ranks in the top 10 in the nation in home runs and RBI.
Not only does Haller shine at the plate, but she has become one of the Jackets’ top pitchers. Haller has a school record six saves and leads the ACC.
On the thought of being ACC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, Haller does not even want to hear or think about that. “Right now the important thing is that we are winning as a team,” said Haller. “If I don’t [produce] in one game, I know that my teammates will, so right now that’s the important thing.”
She most recently was named as one of the 25 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
The 19 home runs through 50 games in itself is pretty impressive, but the fact that the rookie only tallied three home runs in high school, makes that number pretty astonishing.
“In high school I had a completely different swing,” said Haller. “I was a line drive, singles hitter. I never really thought of myself as a power hitter, but now I guess I do.”
A mentality that head coach Ehren Earleywine has tried to embed in Haller’s mind. “I knew that Whitney was a strong girl and had the potential to hit a lot of home runs,” said Earleywine. “I just helped her make a couple of adjustments and she ran with it.”
And then some. Haller is on pace to hit 25 home runs this season. A feat that would vault her to the top along with some of the nation’s elite.
“Winning is the most important thing. We want to win the conference, win a regional and advance to the World Series. As long as the team can do that, I don’t really care how many home runs I hit.”
Well the team is well on its way. Georgia Tech is 36-14, 7-5 in the ACC. The Jackets stand in fourth place at the midpoint of the conference season.
Haller has done her part in contributing. Not only does she lead the conference in most power statistics, she also owns the league’s second highest batting average at .422 (34th in the nation). To Haller, it was just one simple adjustment from high school.
“I pulled the ball in high school and now, almost everything I hit well is [to opposite field]. Things that I pull or hook are in left field but the good ones are [in the opposite field].”
All these things are fine and dandy for Haller and the Yellow Jackets, but when the game is over and the team is leaving the field, Haller just wants to have a good time with her teammates, and only one thing can insure that, winning.