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Rock steady

Rock steady

Rock steady -

Junior Victoria Hayward is a dependable force at the plate and has scorching speed, which makes the Canadian National Team member the UW’s perfect leadoff hitter.

Photo by Joshua Bessex

Ask members of the Washington softball team to describe their right fielder and it’s always the same answer: consistent.

It is an attribute that is difficult to find in softball and one that impeccably defines Victoria Hayward.

When a coach envisions the ideal leadoff hitter, they picture a player with a steady bat and reliable speed, someone who can get on base and get a run on the board quickly. The majority of collegiate softball players can hold their own at the plate. Many can run the bases with velocity. But few can do both at an elite level, and just about nobody can do them as consistently as Hayward.

The junior from Mountain View, Calif., is the fastest player on the team and the only Husky to boast a batting average of higher than .400 this season. As a result, Hayward paces the UW in hits, runs scored, and stolen bases.

It’s hard to imagine a player more suited to take the first stab at opposing pitchers.

“She brings it every game,” junior pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby said. “She always does what it takes to win and we trust her completely. She’s exactly what we need in the leadoff spot.”

Hayward’s consistency originates with a superstitious approach off the field. She goes through the same pregame routine each game day, highlighted by the way she puts on her uniform and the tradition of having head coach Heather Tarr do her eye black just before game time.

Roscoe Dash’s “All The Way Turnt Up,” is played before each Hayward at-bat at Husky Softball Stadium, and if the lefty had her choice, Hayward would make it a custom to try to steal second whenever she reaches first.

“Every time,” she said without hesitation.

Hayward’s ritualistic success has forced a leadership role upon her, one that she performs by example. Tarr says her star right fielder has gradually become more of a vocal leader. Hayward yells encouragement from the dugout as much as anyone, but ultimately it is her performance in the batter’s box and outfield grass that instills confidence in her teammates.

“Victoria just sets the pace for the whole game,” second baseman Kelli Suguro said. “At the plate she’s a triple threat. She can bunt, she can slap, and she can hit. And in the outfield she has one of the best arms, so everyone always looks to her during the game.”

It may sound like there’s a lot riding on Hayward’s shoulders, but the veteran is not one to feel pressure while playing the sport she loves. In fact, being the center of attention is an ordinary aspect of Hayward’s life.

It’s been that way since she was 17.

In the summer of 2009, Hayward became the youngest player ever named to the Senior Canadian National Softball Team. Born in Toronto, she stuck with her roots and teamed up with former Huskies Jenn Salling and Danielle Lawrie, who persuaded Hayward to play her collegiate ball at the UW.

Her life during the school year was even more uncommon. Along with being a two-time all-state performer on the softball field, Hayward had a 4.4 grade point average and played four years of varsity soccer for Mountain View High School, a school less than 40 miles south of San Francisco.

And having started 43 games as a freshman at the UW, being in the spotlight is nothing new for Hayward.

But she doesn’t just endure the pressure of commanding a talented group of Huskies, she embraces it.

“I love everything that comes with being the leadoff hitter,” Hayward said. “I’m used to pressure situations just because of playing for so long at a high level. I always want to be the one that does it for my team.”

She was certainly there for her team during the UW’s 8-6 win over Oregon State on April 6, when Hayward showed off her incredible wheels in the bottom of the fifth. She laid down a bunt, a wild throw from the catcher to first ended up in the corner of right field, and Hayward had crossed home plate before OSU’s right fielder could even make the cut-off throw.

This at-bat defined Hayward as a player: someone with blazing speed and a dependable bat. It was one of many jaw-dropping plays that Hayward has made throughout her career. She said her favorite moments in college have come on the softball field, and thinks that this particular season may turn out to be extra special for the Huskies.

“This team may be the best it’s been since I’ve been here,” she said. “We will go really far as long as we can stay consistent.”

Typical Hayward.

Reach reporter Justin Lester at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JLsmooth23

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