April 23, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Just a glance at Hayley Feindel’s pitching statistics shows her outstanding softball talent, but it is her commitment to the Coast Guard Academy that is the story behind the numbers.

The freshman had been interested in a military career for a long time, but then the native of River Ridge, La. – a suburb of New Orleans – experienced Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2005.  Feindel and her family evacuated to a
relative’s house in Georgia, where they were forced to live for five months.  Although Feindel’s family home suffered minimal damage during the storm, her grandmother’s house was destroyed, along with two cousins’ homes. 

The heroic assistance the Coast Guard lent to community did not go unnoticed with Feindel, and it steered her interests
towards that branch of the military. 

“We were the lucky ones,” said Feindel.  “I felt that I was lucky and God spared me, so after I saw on the news everything the Coast Guard was doing, I wanted to be the one out there helping people.  I saw what they did for my city that I love so much, so I wanted to train to be the savior next time.”

Feindel’s coach at Lutheran High in Metairie, La., contacted Coast Guard head coach Donna Koczajowski about her, also sharing that Division I’s LSU was recruiting the local product.  Despite her opportunities elsewhere, Feindel saw herself at the Academy in New London, Conn.

“I saw the big picture,” said Feindel. “(At the Coast Guard Academy) softball is a great release, but that’s not our job – it’s not why we’re here.  I felt like it was more important to join the Coast Guard and start a career.”

Like all Coast Guard Academy cadets, Feindel has made a five-year commitment of military service following her four years of schooling.  Cadets are also required to go on tours during the summer, and after the softball season, Feindel will fly to Spain and sail back across the Atlantic Ocean to the Bahamas.

“The more I got to know Hayley, the more I realized she was a unique and special person,” said Koczajowski.  “Someone who forgoes a possible Division I scholarship from a national contender to come to a Division III school because of her interest in the Coast Guard and the career is impressive to me.”

Feindel has made an immediate impact for the Bears, leading them to a 32-2-1 record and their current 28-game winning streak.  She has posted a 27-1 record with a 0.82 ERA, and is the nation’s leader in victories.
“What makes Hayley successful for us is that she is a combination of a power and a movement pitcher,” said Koczajowski.  “Usually in Division III, we see one or the other.  She has the ability to throw a fast ball, and then have you guessing on an outstanding off-speed pitch in combination with a rise ball and curve ball, which is the next step for our level.  It makes her very successful in Division III.”

Very successful is an understatement, but Feindel is taking it in stride, and using her time in the circle as a stress reliever for the rigors of Academy life.

“I did not expect this,” said Feindel.  “I figured maybe we’d win a couple and I’d get my feet wet at college ball.  They have just come alive.  The team has been hitting great and my defense is amazing, so hopefully it keeps going.”

The Coast Guard Academy has turned in a season record for wins, while Feindel has struck out a program record 272 batters on the year.

“Hayley was that missing piece,” said Koczajowski.  “We’ve had a solid team in years past, but Hayley came in and obviously has been the ace of our pitching staff.  What’s even more important, that is a tribute to Hayley, is that she is 100 percent about the team itself.  She’s a very selfless individual, and I think that goes back to her roots forgoing a Division I scholarship to come to the Academy because she had the bigger picture in mind.”

The Bears begin New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Tournament play April 23.  They went 15-0-1 in league regular season action.