Westmoreland Alumni Q&A with Haylie Brunson

The former Mount Pleasant softball standout is one of the top performers for Penn State

Tue Apr 02, 2024 - 9:56AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Mount Pleasant's Haylie Brunson transferred from Pitt to Penn State this season.Mount Pleasant's Haylie Brunson transferred from Pitt to Penn State this season.

Last Updated: Wed Apr 03, 2024 - 8:20PM

The Brunson name has been a staple of Mount Pleasant Area softball for nearly a decade. Chris Brunson has served at the helm of the program for many years, and all three of his daughters have suited up for the Vikings during that time. The oldest of his daughters, Haylie, not only had a terrific career at Mount Pleasant, but has enjoyed success collegiately at both Pitt and Penn State. Now with the Nittany Lions, Brunson has emerged as a top player in the Big Ten. She’s in the spotlight for this edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.

Brunson joined the Vikings as a freshman in the 2018 campaign, and immediately became one of the top players. The infielder/outfielder posted a .500 batting average with four home runs and 38 RBIs. As a result, she was named First-Team All-State. That year, the Vikes went 19-2 overall, including a perfect 10-0 in section play. In the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs, Mount Pleasant defeated Knoch, but fell to Belle Vernon Area in the semifinals. However, the Vikings defeated Yough in a consolation game to qualify for the state postseason. From there, the Vikings ousted Slippery Rock and then redeemed their loss to the Leopards before bowing out against Punxsutawney in the semifinals.

As a sophomore, Brunson produced an average of .368 with four homers and 15 RBIs. Mount Pleasant replicated its record from the previous year, including another 10-0 mark in the section. In the WPIAL playoffs, the Vikings defeated Ringgold and Thomas Jefferson, but fell to Elizabeth Forward in the Class 4A Championship. In the state bracket, Mount Pleasant defeated Bellefonte and James Buchanan, but lost to EF again in the semis.

The 2020 season was wiped out entirely because of COVID. However, Brunson returned to the diamond for her senior campaign in 2021. Patrolling third base, she hit .560 with six homers, 41 RBIs, and 29 runs. Subsequently, she garnered First-Team All-State honors. Her play helped propel the Vikings to a record of 21-3, including 8-1 in section play. In the postseason, the Vikings defeated Derry Area and Avonworth to reach the WPIAL Class 3A Championship. In that contest, the Vikings left no doubt, smashing Ellwood City 15-0 to claim district gold. In the PIAA postseason, Mount Pleasant surged past Bald Eagle Area, Avonworth, and Punxsutawney to reach the state title game. Playing at Penn State University, the Vikings outlasted Mid Valley 5-3 to capture the PIAA crown.

Following her graduation, Brunson matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh, joining the Panthers for the 2022 season. The infielder appeared in 40 contests, all starts, as a freshman. In those contests, she posted an average of .233 with 15 RBIs, 15 runs, and one homer. The Panthers struggled to a mark of 14-27 overall, including just 2-20 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Last year, Brunson played in 42 games, including 36 starts. In that action, she compiled a batting average of .294 with four home runs, 20 runs, and 15 RBIs. The Panthers improved to 24-25 overall, including 6-17 in the ACC.

After two years at Pitt, Brunson transferred to Penn State University as an outfielder. Thus far this season, she’s started all 33 games, hitting .305 with five homers, 28 RBIs, and 19 runs. The Nittany Lions have amassed a mark of 26-7, including 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference.

Haylie set aside time from her schedule to field questions about her decision to transfer to PSU, the pros and cons of playing for her father, and the advice she’d give herself as a high school freshman.

Q: You rank at or near the top of the team in many hitting categories. What have been the biggest factors in your success at the plate this season?

A: The biggest factor to my success at the plate this season is finding a way to be the toughest out possible. As a team, our offensive focus is quality at-bats. We really try and fall in love with the process and not so much of the outcome. When I step into the box, I just try to clear my head and have some fun. When you are having fun, those pressure situations do not feel as big in your head.

Q: What is an underrated aspect of your game?

A: An underrated aspect of my game would have to be how I lead by example. I think how intentional you are when putting in the work when nobody is watching is contagious and trickles down through the team. This type of leadership sometimes goes unnoticed, but is a key to team culture and success.

Q: What team and individual goals did you set for this campaign?

A: Our team goal for this season is to make a regional. My individual goal I set for myself is to be All-Big Ten.

Q: What led to your decision to transfer to Penn State?

A: I absolutely loved the family vibe the coaches brought and the championship culture that surrounds Penn State. We have some of the best resources and facilities in the country. I am now a third generation Penn Stater. My grandpa and mom went here, as well, so I was familiar with Penn State and all that it has to offer. The second I stepped on campus, I knew this was going to be where I called home for the next two years.

Q: What were the biggest adjustments to a new school?

A: I think the biggest adjustment was just figuring out where everything was. The process of doing things was a little bit different but pretty similar. Honestly, my teammates and coaches made this a very smooth transition and I am so grateful for them.

Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?

A: My major is labor and human resources, but my ideal future profession is becoming a college softball coach.

Q: What has been your most challenging college class?

A: What has been my most challenging college class was business calculus. Let’s just say I spent many hours getting tutored.

Q: Aside from softball, what is your favorite aspect of college?

A: My favorite aspect of college outside of softball is going to the football games and hanging out with my friends. My teammates and I like to have a lot of fun.

Q: Your dad was your softball coach at Mount Pleasant. What were the pros and cons of that dynamic?

A: I loved having my dad as my high school softball coach and wish I could go back to experience it one more time. We really have a special bond, so it was so much fun playing for him. The only con of the dynamic was that he liked to be a lot harder on me than anyone else, but that comes with the territory.

Q: What was your fondest high school memory?

A: My fondest high school memory is winning the state championship my senior year with my dad and sister, Krista. It is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It’s very cool that we got to do it on Beard Field and that’s now where I get to practice every day.

Q: Your sister, Krista, also plays college softball. What is your relationship like with her?

A: Krista and my relationship is a fun little dynamic because we are very opposite in personality, so we complement each other well. It is weird not seeing her in the stands at my games with my other sister, Kendra. They are my two biggest supporters. I’m so proud of Krista and how hard she works. I can’t wait to watch it pay off for her in college.

Q: If you could change one rule about college softball, what would it be? Why?

A: If I could change one rule, it would definitely be that we can’t play games under 40 degrees. I believe in the Big Ten, the real feel has to be above 28, which is entirely too cold.

Q: To which movie or TV show can you recite nearly every line?

A: A movie I can recite nearly every line to is 42. I have watched that movie about Jackie Robinson more times than I can count. I’m sure there are other baseball movies to which I can also nearly recite every line, as well.

Q: What advice would you give yourself as a high school freshman?

A: Having gone through both sets of recruiting rules, I would tell my freshman self that I’m allowed to have fun with the game and really enjoy it. Nobody is going to remember if you struck out or made an error in the field, so there is no reason to put so much pressure on yourself. It’s the memories that come with you that matter the most. I would also tell my freshman self to be where your feet are and not take anything for granted. It is hitting me that I only have 1 1/2 seasons left and am so thankful for the journey and all the lessons this game has taught me. Lately, I’ve been reminding myself how blessed I am to be able to play the game I love, and that the outcome is already known by God. Playing for an audience of one has really helped me to play free.