Hailey Drew signs softball letter of intent with McNeese State

Fallbrook High School senior Hailey Drew spent the morning of November 13 at the San Diego Hall of Champions for a ceremony in which she was one of 152 San Diego County athletes who signed letters of intent to play college athletics.

Drew signed a letter of intent to play softball at McNeese State University, which is in western Louisiana town of Lake Charles.

“I’m very excited to continue my softball career there,” Drew said.

Drew had also been considering Bucknell University in Maryland before signing with the Cowgirls. She cited the members of the McNeese State team as her reason for choosing that school.

“They had great hospitality when I went there,” Drew said.

Drew made her initial visit at the beginning of her junior academic year. The Cowgirls’ coaching staff is headed by Mike Smith. “I love the coaches,” Drew said.

“Hailey is a kid that we’re really excited about,” Smith said.

“She’s the type of player that every coach wants in their program. She’s very athletic. She can hit for power,” Smith said. “She plays great defense.”

Drew is a shortstop when her team is in the field.

“To top it off, she’s an exceptional student,” Smith said.

Smith obtained two San Diego County athletes November 13; Carlsbad High School senior Erika Piancastelli also signed at the Hall of Champions.

Smith observed both Drew and Piancastelli in a recent club tournament. “Just watching them play was exciting,” Smith said. “We’re looking forward to having them in our program.”

Drew and Piancastelli play for the San Diego Rebels club and were teammates with current McNeese State freshmen Amber Schisler (Santana High School) and Tori Yanitor (Steele Canyon High School). Drew also cited Piancastelli’s decision and the presence of Schisler and Yanitor among her reasons to sign with McNeese State.

“San Diego is very loaded with softball talent,” Smith said. “I wanted to go to the West Coast and get some kids.”

Five freshmen from Southern California, including Schisler and Yanitor, are on the Cowgirls’ 2014 roster, as is one Southern California sophomore. The ten players who signed with McNeese State on November 13 include a third Californian: Bryanna Castro of Yorba Linda’s Esperanza High School.

Smith himself was raised in San Diego and played baseball and football for Morse High School before graduating in 1988. He attended The Master’s College and played minor league baseball prior to coaching. Smith coached the Biola softball team from 1999 to 2002, winning one Golden State Athletic Conference championship, and spent part of 2003 as the University of California, Riverside interim head coach before taking over the Cal Baptist softball program. He led the Lancers to GSAC titles in each of his eight years at Cal Baptist and also won the 2009 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championship. In his first season at McNeese State he posted a 34-21 record, and he followed that with a 38-13 record for 2013. The Cowgirls finished third in the 2012 Southland Conference standings with a 12-8 record and first in the 2013 standings at 19-5.

“She’s walking into a good situation at McNeese State, and they’re looking for big things from her,” said Fallbrook High School co-coach Shannon Koran.

“She is very excited to be going to play for Coach Smith,” said Fallbrook co-coach Patti Drew, who is also Hailey Drew’s mother. “It’s an up and coming Division I program.”

Smith initially saw Drew in a Colorado tournament. “It was somewhat special,” Smith said.

“She brings championship experience,” Smith said. “She pretty much wins wherever she plays. She’s a gamer.”

Although Fallbrook High School has not won a league championship while Drew has been playing, the 2012 Warriors reached the CIF playoffs for the first time since 2002 and won a playoff game for the first time since 1992. Fallbrook won two 2012 playoff contests before losing to top-seeded Torrey Pines. The Warriors returned to the CIF playoffs in 2013 only to lose in the first round to Calexico in eleven innings.

Patti Drew and Koran took over as Fallbrook co-coaches in 2010, so when Hailey Drew entered high school her mother and Koran once again coached her. “She is probably the most competitive person I know, which has really driven her to where she’s going. She’s a kid who hates to lose, and that’s how she plays,” Koran said.

Drew earned a berth on Fallbrook’s varsity as a freshman in 2011. During her first high school season she set school single-season records with 55 hits and a .597 batting average. Her hits included six doubles, a triple, and a homer. She scored 40 runs in 2011 while driving in 20 runs and stealing 22 bases.

On offense in 2013 Drew batted .439 with 36 hits, 32 runs scored, four doubles, three triples, six home runs, 17 runs batted in, 17 walks drawn, 15 stolen bases, a .535 on-base percentage, and a .780 slugging percentage. Her shortstop statistics included a .908 fielding percentage.

“She’s going to get into the San Diego County record book by the end of this last season,” Koran said.

“Hailey’s a leadoff-type hitter. When she gets on the bases she makes things happen,” Smith said.

Drew was selected to the all-CIF second team in each of her first three seasons. She has also earned all-league first team honors three times; she was on the Avocado East League first team in 2011 and 2012 before the Warriors moved to the Avocado West League, whose coaches placed her on the 2013 first team. The softball coaches had all-division teams in 2011 and 2012, and Drew was on the Division I first team both years.

Drew’s teammates voted her as the Warriors’ Most Valuable Player in 2011. Although the 2012 awards banquet did not have an MVP, Drew was honored with the Best Defensive Player award. The MVP honor was reinstated in 2013, and Drew was the recipient.

The U-T San Diego all-academic teams are limited to juniors and seniors, so Drew did not receive all-academic honors until 2013. Her 3.87 grade point average ranked second among upperclassmen on the varsity softball team.

“She’s smart. She knows the game. She knows the game within the game,” Smith said. “I think that’s just a huge benefit to our program.”

Drew will be a criminal justice major at McNeese State University. She is contemplating a law enforcement career in the military. Her paternal grandfather was a World War II veteran.

Smith noted that Drew will need to adjust to the college level. “The transition from travel ball, high school, to Division I is a radical change,” he said. “It’s a culture change.”

Smith feels that Drew will make that adjustment. “She has so much upside,” Smith said. “I think sky’s the limit for her.”

Katie Roux is the McNeese State starting shortstop and will be a senior in 2014, so Drew will enter McNeese State when the Cowgirls don’t have a specific shortstop in mind. “She’s going to have every opportunity to win the job at shortstop,” Smith said.

“Just really proud of her. It’s something that she’s worked for almost since she started playing,” Koran said. “She put in the time to be able to get there.”

“It took a lot of dedication and hard work to go where I wanted to go in life and get what I wanted to get,” Drew said.

“She’s worked really hard in the classroom and on the field, and it’s nice that it’s paid off for her,” Patti Drew said.

“We’re just real excited about Hailey committing to us,” Smith said. “I think great things are ahead of her both academically and athletically.”

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