The Times Athlete of the Week: Seneca softball’s Hayden Pfeifer

Pfeifer wins online vote after hitting 2 home runs in regional title game

Hayden Pfeifer

After 594 votes were cast in an online poll, The Times Athlete of the Week, sponsored by SOCU, is Seneca softball’s Hayden Pfeifer.

Pfeifer received 312 votes after blasting two solo home runs for the Fighting Irish in their Class 2A regional championship victory over Lexington/Ridgeview. She finished first on a ballot that also included runner-up Alec Novotney (Marquette baseball), Kiara Wesseh (Newark girls track and field) and Isaiah Brown (Streator boys track and field).

Here is regional sports editor J.T. Pedelty’s Q&A with Pfeifer.

Seneca's Hayden Pfeifer lets go of a pitch to St. Bede on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at St. Bede Academy.

Do you have any nicknames?

Pfeifer: I get called “Hay” a lot by teammates and coaches, but one of my first-ever coaches and close family friends called me “Hay-Hay” as a kid.

How old were you when you started playing softball? What made you want to try the sport?

Pfeifer: I started playing around 7 years old. As a kid I was up to try nearly any sport offered because I loved being active. My mom played softball in an adult league, and my dad played baseball at Seneca High School and Joliet Junior College, so they started teaching me young. Also, my coach throughout a lot of rec ball, travel ball and school ball was Pat Starwalt, who was there every step of the way as I fell in love with the game.

Where are you playing this summer?

Pfeifer: I’ll be playing with the Midland Magic 09 PB 14U this year, and we’ll be playing a lot in and around the Midwest this season.

What has it been like as a freshman on a team that came into the season with so many players locked into their roles and having had so much success? What, if anything, did you learn from them?

Pfeifer: Coming into this season, I knew I was going to need to work hard to make varsity as a freshman, let alone earn a spot in the lineup. I put in a lot of effort during my offseason between volleyball and softball to help me prepare. The returning players had set an example as to be able to adjust to whatever situation was thrown at you, and to keep your head up and work when things don’t go the way you want them to.

You and the team are going out to dinner to celebrate. Where do you go, and what do you order?

Pfeifer: EJ Karz in Verona. I’ve been going there since I was a little kid with my family and teammates. I always get a pizza to share with the group that has pepperoni, bacon bits, and ‘Jimmy Sauce’ on it, which consists of buffalo, ranch and boom-boom sauce.

If you could see any artist in concert anywhere in the world tomorrow night, all expenses paid, who would you choose and where?

Pfeifer: I’d love to see the Weeknd at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

Seventh inning, tie ballgame, two outs, bases loaded. Would you rather be stepping into the circle to pitch or into the batter’s box to hit in that situation, and why?

Pfeifer: I would rather be able to step into the circle to pitch in that situation because I trust my mechanics, and after having been in so many high-pressure situations with travel ball and going to IESA State my seventh and eighth grade years, I know to trust my spin and how to recognize what adjustments need to be made.

Is there a fact about you that might surprise people who only know you through sports?

Pfeifer: Even though both of my parents graduated from Seneca High School, I was born in Florida and I lived there until I was 3, when my family moved back up to Illinois to be closer to the rest of our family.

I know it’s awfully early, but do you have any college plans, and if so, do they involve sports?

Pfeifer: My dream schools are Northwestern University and University of Michigan. I would love to play softball there, and I want to major in psychology with a career in sports psychology.

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