Haley Hanson has never hesitated to dream big.
Even when she was the smallest player on her team — which was pretty much every year until she reached Redmond High School.
“I thought I was going to be 4-10 my whole life,” Hanson said.
But she still excelled at soccer, basketball and softball, playing all three at the select level — for one stretch at the same time — and finally shot up to almost 5 foot 4 (5-3 ¾ to be exact) between eighth and 10th grades.
Along the way, Hanson constantly had to prove herself.
“People would doubt me because of my size,” she said. “I had to prove people wrong.”
Hanson consistently did just that, particularly in softball, the sport she ultimately honed in on. She is a huge part of Redmond’s success this spring as the top-ranked Class 4A team in the state, according to MaxPreps and Scorebook Live. The unbeaten Mustangs (17-0, 15-0 league), rated No. 13 nationally this week, clinched sole possession of the KingCo 4A title with a 21-6 victory over Issaquah on Monday.
Hanson, who plays center field and bats either first or second in a loaded lineup, is batting .516 with at least one hit in every game, 25 runs scored and 17 RBI. She is also 12 for 13 on stolen bases and has signed to play at Sacramento State next fall.
Coach Alison Mitchell calls her “rock steady” and one of the hardest workers on the team.
“She’s had to battle through being overlooked her whole career because of her size and who she plays with,” Mitchell said, referencing fellow senior Kiki Milloy, an all-star pitcher/outfielder who is headed to Tennessee. “She’s grown into a player you can’t ignore.”
Milloy stands 5-11 and has been close friends with Hanson since first grade, so they create quite a contrast standing side by side. But their abilities with the bat make them imposing at the plate — Milloy more because of her power (she has 10 home runs) and Hanson because of her speed and consistency.
“Haley is the type of player that teams fear because they never know what they are going to get,” Milloy said. “She could bunt it, slap it or even hit a bomb.”
Indeed — Hanson hit her first-ever out-of-the-park home run last Wednesday, a three-run wallop that helped key a 10-4 victory over No. 7 Woodinville.
She has been a four-year starter at Redmond — but, of course, she had to prove herself there at first, too. Hanson had played in the outfield and at second base on her select teams. She got the starting spot at second base for Redmond a couple of weeks into her freshman season after another player got hurt and helped the Mustangs reach the Class 4A state tournament.
Hanson lost the tryout at second as a sophomore to freshman Camille Eaton and found herself on the bench for the first couple of games. She wanted to contribute and told Mitchell, who had just been promoted from assistant to head coach, that she could play in the outfield, too. She quickly got her chance and made the most of it, batting .507 and playing errorless defense as the Mustangs, who had dropped to Class 3A, won the state title.
“It was just the greatest feeling ever,” she recalls. “We all had worked really hard and our team motto was ‘Just do your job,’ and if you do your job good things will happen. We all did our jobs perfectly that (championship) game.”
Hanson faced another hurdle the following year after suffering a right-knee injury during a basketball game that led to surgery in mid-February. She was told it could be three months before she could play softball again — if ever.
“I was terrified,” she said. “But I worked really hard and came back even stronger.”
Hanson, who sat on a bucket in her garage and hit balls while recouping and also worked with a trainer, amazingly was in the Redmond softball lineup by the end of March, missing only the first five games. She hit .617 with 52 runs scored, 21 RBI and 14 steals as the Mustangs finished fourth at the Class 3A state tourney.
She joined the top Washington Ladyhawks select team and made an impression not only with coach Wayne Miller — who likens her to former UW standout Trysten Melhart — but Sacramento State, which extended a scholarship offer in June.
“Haley is a young lady that puts a goal in front of her and will do whatever it takes to get that goal or dream accomplished,” Miller said, noting her recent extra work in the weight room is paying off.
Redmond’s move back to Class 4A this season has offered another challenge, which Hanson and her teammates have met thus far. The seniors hope to end their career with another state championship.
Hanson, a 3.85 student, is considering a career in the medical field — and coaching.
“I want to help little girls achieve their dreams, like I did,” she said.