Leading in lots of ways

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Lake City senior Haley Loffer is hoping her bat can spark a few T-Wolf rallies as her team travels to southeast Idaho for the 5A state softball tournament this week. LOREN BENOIT/Press

COEUR d’ALENE — Haley Loffer’s goal at the end of this week — win or lose — is to make everything of each moment she has left in the teal of the Timberwolves.

The long bus ride with her teammates.

Her final softball games for Lake City High.

Stepping into the batter’s box to lead off a game.

Everything.

Loffer enjoyed some early success in the baseball/softball world, qualifying for the national Pitch, Hit & Run competition twice, competing at the site of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

She’ll make a fourth straight trip to the state 5A tournament starting Friday as the Timberwolves (20-4) open against Mountain View High of Meridian at Capell Park in Chubbuck.

“Nothing really prepares you for going into the state tournament and not having you feel nervous,” Loffer said. “I think I handle it pretty well, and that’s because I’ve been in big competitions early like Pitch, Hit & Run and being around that many people, knowing that I’m fighting for a spot.”

The lefty-hitting Loffer has occupied the leadoff spot for Lake City in each game for the past three seasons.

“I really enjoy hitting leadoff because I know that if I get on, we’re going to score and start a fire,” Loffer said. “But also, if I strike out, it could be bad. Most of the time, the team picks me up. To me, it’s kind of exciting to get to be the first person in our lineup to see the pitcher. I think it kind of sets the tone for the game as well. I know my attitude, and how I hold myself is very important. Everyone is watching me, and that’s the first at-bat, so I know that I need to set the tone.”

“Haley has grown as a player in many ways,” Lake City coach Jesse Lenz said. “As a freshman, she was told she was going to be our starting shortstop and leadoff hitter because we had to rebuild some with the departure of some highly recruited athletes. She had struggles as a freshman, but we stood by her and grew with her as a program. She has grown more each year as a player and has turned into more of a vocal leader.

“She is a great leadoff hitter because she will give you a quality at-bat and make productive outs if she does happen to get out. Not everyone knows, but Haley switched to be a left-handed hitter in eighth grade. It has made her a true triple threat at the plate because she can bunt, base hit and hit for power. When she reaches base, she causes havoc with her speed and knowledge of the game.”

Her love of the game started at a young age. So early, she didn’t know how to walk quite yet.

“I think I chose softball because both my parents played for a long time,” Loffer said. “When I was born, they’d take me to games. I think it was always something they wanted me to play. They weren’t going to force it on me, but they wanted me to play as well. Once I started to play it, I really started to enjoy it.”

Loffer has started at shortstop all four years at Lake City.

“I like to stay off the grass,” Loffer joked. “My dad was a shortstop, and I think that had a lot to do with why I wanted to be one as well.”

She’ll continue her playing career at NAIA College of Idaho in Caldwell next fall. It was her travel ball coach — Travis Smith of the USA Explosion — who pointed her in that direction.

“My travel ball coach’s daughter (Kylie Smith) plays down there right now,” Loffer said. “She was looking there and he said I should check them out.”

A few games later ...

“We traveled down there and played them, College of Western Idaho and College of the Siskiyous in a round-robin tournament over a weekend,” Loffer said. “That’s when I got to see how they played, and their coaches. It all kind of came together real suddenly. I never went to them, or seeked them out until my coach said to check them out.”

Loffer also played soccer and basketball when she was younger, but an injury in basketball during her sophomore year put a halt to that.

“I had to stop soccer because my club softball games were on the weekends, and that’s when my soccer games were too,” Loffer said. “Once I got hurt during my sophomore year in basketball, I didn’t want to lose any potential scholarship opportunities in softball due to an injury.”

While she’s undecided on a major in college at this point, Loffer is going to turn a life-long interest into a minor at College of Idaho.

“My favorite class is Spanish,” Loffer said. “I grew up around it and have had Spanish classes since preschool. The only year I didn’t have it was my eighth-grade year. I’ve pretty much grown up around it and I’ve got a fasination with that language and I’m going to minor in it in college.”

When she’s not occupied with softball, Loffer enjoys being outdoors.

“I really like horseback riding in my free time, when I have free time,” Loffer said. “I really like reading and being around my family and friends.”

Her favorite books include the Mortal Instrument series.

Lake City finished fourth at state in Loffer’s freshman year and runner-up in her junior year. Her sophomore season, Lake City lost its opener and didn’t get back on the field as the tournament was shortened due to rain.

“Most of my favorite memories of playing softball have come from being with this team,” Loffer said. “Finishing second last year was amazing. Just seeing the team grow and how we’ve continued to get better has been amazing.

Eagle, which many believe is favored to win a fourth straight 5A title, was undefeated before losing in the District 3 tournament earlier this week. Eagle qualified for state as the third seed from District 3.

“It kind of makes me a little excited,” Loffer said. “Seeing how we were second last year. Just knowing we beat Boise last year and almost beat Eagle, it just makes me that more excited to play next week.”

And while it may or may not happen, there’s still a few goals that Loffer is aiming for in the coming weeks.

“I’d really like to get Gatorade Player of the Year,” Loffer said. “And I know it’s not for sure, but it would be an honor. And if I don’t, that’s OK. I just want to enjoy as much as I can because I know after it’s over, I’ll never come back to school here again, I’ll never play softball for Lake City again. Just make everyday worth it.”

“Haley has meant the world to this program over the last four years,” Lenz said. “We truly had to rebuild from the loss of some great athletes, and she has stepped in and led the way. We have won a lot of ballgames with her as the leadoff hitter and shortstop, and I cannot imagine what next year is going to bring when I have to replace such a great athlete and an even better kid. But I remind her every day that we are not done yet.”

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