After verbally committing over 15 months ago, LFO senior softball player Haley Stahl made it official on Friday as she signed papers to continue her playing career in nearby Dayton, Tenn. for Bryan College.
"This is the day I've been looking forward to since I started softball," Stahl said. "It's been my dream since I picked up a softball. It means the world to me and my family. It may seem like the end, but it's really the beginning of a whole new adventure."
Stahl, one of just two upperclassmen on the Lady Warriors' roster this past season along with fellow senior Auna Rolfe, was LFO's go-to pitcher for the third consecutive year.
She ended the 2020 season with a career-low in ERA (1.65) and a career-high in strikeouts (93) in 144 innings in the circle and ended her time at LFO with a 2.16 career ERA in over 462 innings pitched with better than a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
She was also her team's leading hitter this past season with a .329 average among starters. She added four doubles, a homerun and collected 16 RBIs. During her four years wearing red and white, she batted over .320 with 22 doubles, four triples, six homers and 61 RBIs, earning 6-AAA All-Region first team status three times.
"I've always felt at home at Bryan," she continued. "Everyone there makes you feel at home. The coaches are wonderful about making you feel welcome and the girls (on the team) have made me feel welcome ever since the first day I stepped on that field."
Bryan head coach Mark Ritchhart said he was first impressed with Stahl after a meeting nearly two years ago.
"I had a meeting with some specific athletes about two years ago concerning the future of the program and she got invited to that meeting," he explained. "She was already on my radar back then and she must have really liked what I said.
"At Bryan, we really go for the fit. We're a Christian College, so we're going for sportsmanship and character and we're also going after championships. We're also trying to help people get their degrees and have a good time doing so while playing a sport.
"With everything I said, she seemed to have the same desires, from sportsmanship and character to championships, both conference and national. It just seems to be such a match. The fit seems so right."
Stahl said she was first and foremost a "team player".
"I'm going to put the team first and, as a pitcher, I've always tried to be a leader," she added. "Honestly, I'm just excited for this whole new thing. I'm going up there as a pitcher and as a first baseman, so I can become a whole new player on the field too."
"She's an incredible young woman that comes from a great family and she's a talented athlete," Ritchhart added. "Everything about her seems to be a perfect fit for us. I'm so excited...I think we're getting such a gem."
LFO head coach Tony Ellis, who had to miss the signing ceremony due to a death in the family, said he was excited for his senior standout.
"Bryan is getting one of the best young ladies I've coached," he said. "She's a super character kid and also a really good player. I think it's a great fit for Haley and I think she'll set some records there."
Stahl plans to study education while in college and hopes to one day become a kindergarten teacher.