Marist softball has a new breakout star in Haley Ahr, and she’s making up for lost time with her offensive excellence this season.
Now fully recovered from the ankle surgery she underwent a year ago, Ahr has put on a clinic for the Red Foxes. At the time of this writing, the redshirt freshman leads the MAAC conference with 44 hits and 36 RBIs while batting .393, good for second-best in the conference.
Her consistent presence in the three-hole has elevated the Marist attack, with the team scoring a MAAC-best 177 runs so far this season. Ahr has also impressed in the field, primarily splitting time between the keystone and shortstop; she currently ranks second in the conference with 69 assists.
For her efforts, she’s been recognized as the MAAC Player of the Week for softball three times and Rookie of the Week for softball on four separate occasions. While the moment has been gratifying for her, the road she took to get here hasn’t always been so straightforward.
The Jersey Shore native first heard of the Marist softball program during her playing days at Saint John Vianney high school. Ahr’s high school coach brought the program to her attention and put her in touch with Marist Head Coach Joe Ausanio, and not long after, she was sold on Marist.
“I came here on a visit and I just fell in love with the school,” Ahr said. “It was beautiful, right on the river with an amazing campus.”
After committing to the College, an unfortunate twist of fate struck, as she sprained her ankle prior to arriving for her first semester in 2021. She attempted to play through the injury but doing so only aggravated it, and before long, she found out she needed ankle surgery.
The news came as a blow to the team and a bitter disappointment to Ausanio.
“I was really sad for Haley last year because we full well expected her to be a key part of our team,” Ausanio said. “The fact that her ankle consistently bothered her, it was just upsetting as a coach because all of these kids you recruit, you want to see them out on the field.”
Making matters worse was the recovery process, which went much slower than initially expected. Eventually, Ahr had to wave the white flag on what was supposed to be her freshman year, prompting her to redshirt and look ahead to the following season.
“It just didn’t make sense for me to play last season because I wouldn’t of been able to play for a majority [of it],” she said.
Despite the adversity she faced, Ahr learned a lot about herself and her love of the game during the rehab process. She started physical therapy and “worked really hard” over the past summer to return to peak form for this year.
“I definitely learned that the long days and weekends, even though sometimes they can be hard, I’d rather be doing that than anything else,” she said. “You never really realize how much you love something until obviously, you can’t do it anymore.”
Now that she’s finally healthy, Ahr has stepped up and shown out, as she’s seemingly at the center of everything her team does offensively. Ausanio referred to her as a “little offensive juggernaut” while also touting her defensive versatility and base running success, as she’s stolen 11 bases in 13 tries this season.
For Ahr, her return to the field has been truly meaningful since softball serves as an outlet for her academic and social life. Helping her make the seamless transition back into the fray is the relationship she has with her teammates and the team’s chemistry as a whole.
The caring sentiments of her teammates haven’t gone unnoticed.
“Any time someone gets out or is having a rough day, there’s always someone waiting to pick you up. You come into the dugout after you get out and everyone’s there to give you high-fives,” Ahr said. “We all just try to pick each other up as much as we can, and that means a lot. I haven’t played on a team that is as close as we are.”
Ausanio noted that Ahr is particularly well-liked among her teammates, and mentioned that there’s no doubt in his mind that she’ll one day serve as a team captain.
“Everyone just looks and gravitates to her in a leadership role,” he said. “She’s a great teammate and always a pleasure to be around.”
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Andrew Hard
Photo Credit: Marist Athletics