Lacassine's Haylie Hoffpauir shoots from the corner against Lacassine during the LHSAA Marsh Madness Class B semi-final at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Lake Charles American Press, Kirk Meche)

On her first trip to the plate as a 4-year-old, Haylie Hoffpauir held the bat backwards. Since then, she learned the game and a lot more, finishing a distinguished career as both an athlete and student at Lacassine High.

In addition to earning a scholarship to play softball at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and helping the Cardinals return to the Class B state basketball tournament, Hoffpauir excelled in the classroom, finishing with a 4.0 grade point average.

She is the female winner of the American Press Scholar Athlete of the Year award. She also ran track and cross country.

Despite the dubious start, Hoffpauir developed a passion for softball, which started three years ago. Hoffpauir earned all-state honors as a junior catcher and also played the infield.

"I was always one of the smallest players and never the most talented kid, but I was able to succeed because I had a good work ethic, heart and a lot of determination," she said. "I always enjoyed the competitiveness of it. It was amazing to start something new in high school, to be able to inspire younger girls to start playing. And I was able to play for my uncle, head coach Eric Ardoin."

On the hardwood, Hoffpauir was a sharp-shooting guard for the Cardinals, who reached the Class B semifinals last season.

"Basketball was my favorite part of high school," she said. "I loved playing for Coach (Jeremy) Hollier and Coach Hannah (Miller). It taught me a lot more than basketball. It taught life lessons and contributed to my success. It allowed me a way to relieve stress. Basketball has always been me and my grandpa's thing so it has always meant a lot to me.

"As a junior, I scored 26 points and made eight 3-pointers against Holden. That was an amazing experience, along with making it to state as a senior. It is impossible to describe that experience, that feeling you get running onto the court and hearing how loud the crowd is. I had to take a second to take it all in; it is one of the greatest experiences I ever had, being out there with my girls. I wouldn't want to be there with any other group of girls."

Hoffpauir said her sports career helped her make a career choice. She will be a pre-med student at Millsaps with an eye on a career in orthopedics.

"Playing sports my whole life I have had a lot of injuries and visits to orthopedists," she said. "I really enjoy helping people and would like to help other athletes like my orthopedists did for me."

Hoffpauir said the same characteristics that helped her achieve on the field applied in the classroom.

"Since junior high, I was always involved in some sport during school so it was a matter of keeping my priorities straight, working hard and learning not to procrastinate," she said. "I had to realize that hard work and dedication would lead to success on and off the field."

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