It is known around the West Springfield clubhouse as “the catch.” The one that should not have been made — the grab that enabled the Spartans to keep their season alive. Spartan baseball coach John James called it “one of the best I have ever seen in centerfield.”
But for Jeff Haeuptle, it was another routine play.
During a scoreless tie in a Northern Region quarterfinal match-up between West Springfield and Robinson, a Rams batter smashed the ball toward the right-center fence. From the moment the ball made contact, it looked like the deadlocked score would be broken. But Haeuptle, a first-team all-region centerfielder, hustled it down to make a diving backhand catch to keep his team in the game. The Spartans eventually won, 1-0, thanks to a walk-off single by Andy Stallings in the bottom of the seventh.
“He was without question our leader,” James said. “He gave guys a pat on the back when they needed it but also gave guys a kick in the butt when they needed it. He worked as hard as he possibly could and really worked his way into an all-state player.”
As a senior, Haeuptle led the team with 25 runs scored, 18 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. He was also among the Spartans’ leaders in hits, batting average and slugging percentage for a team that finished 15-5 on the year.
“They were a bunch of great guys to play with,” Haeuptle said. “This was my last year, so I had to leave it all on the field. It was just fun to go out there play.”
Stallings said Haeuptle was pivotal to the team’s success.
“He batted lead off, got on base and scored runs,” Stallings said. “Jeff was one of the leaders of our team and always tried to get everyone focused.”
Haeuptle used that focus, exemplified on the baseball diamond, in the classroom as well. His 3.91 GPA earned him acceptance to Ohio State University, the alma mater of both his parents, where he will study business in the scholars program and try to make the baseball team.
“I talked to the coaches a little bit and I plan on walking on in the fall,” Haeuptle said. “It just comes down to what they need. I think I definitely have a good shot to play and help them accomplish some of their goals.”
James said he sees a bright future for Haeuptle at OSU because of his work ethic and desire.
“Jeff obviously has the physical skills and speed, but I think his baseball instincts are what sets him apart,” James said. “If he is given a chance to get out and play on a consistent basis, I think he will do really well.”