The Prep Rally: Best in the West series will highlight the all-time best players in western Arkansas as selected by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
There aren't many athletes who gain international experience before they're out of high school, but Hallie Wacaser isn't a typical athlete.
The former Bentonville West softball star played last fall for Team USA at the Pan American games at Barranquila, Columbia. Wacaser helped lead the Under-17 USA team to the championship with an 8-0 record but she rates the experience far greater than simply winning a series of games on foreign soil.
""It was definitely an experience of a lifetime," Wacaser said. "I had the best time playing against girls from other countries. I've never been out of the country before, so learning about people from different cultures is the coolest thing ever. You realize how thankful we are to live in America. It was eye-opening, for sure."
Wacaser led Team USA with a .560 average that included 2 home runs, 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored. After slamming two home runs in 12-0 win over Argentina, Wacaser added two more hits, including a triple, in a 2-0 win over Mexico that clinched the championship for Team USA.
Wacaser's next journey will lead her to Florida State University to continue her education and play softball for the Seminoles. Wacaser was supposed to leave Northwest Arkansas for Tallahassee, Fla., this weekend but her departure has been delayed because of covid-19.
"I was going to start summer school, but it's probably going to be in August when I get down there," Wacaser said. "The Florida State coaches sent me a workout schedule and I've been doing that a lot. I can't wait to get started."
Once she arrives, no one will have to teach Wacaser how to do the Tomahawk Chop Florida State fans are known for. Her family is originally from Georgia and her father is a longtime supporter of the Seminoles.
"When we lived in Georgia, I got to go a softball camp at Florida State when I was in the eighth grade," Wacaser said. "It's always been my dream to play at Florida State and to actually get to do it is great"
Wacaser is a three-time all-state player and former Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year who hit .511 with 36 home runs and 140 RBI over three seasons with the Wolverines. That kind of production prompted opposing coaches to pitch around Wacaser in the few games she played for Bentonville West as a senior before the season was canceled because of covid-19.
She finished the abbreviated season 1 for 3 after receiving nine consecutive walks in her final two games.
"Having played Hallie four times in the past two years, we have seen a variety of things she can do at the plate," said Fayetteville assistant coach Jill Barnett, who has known Wacaser and her family for years. "Our game plan when facing her consists of not letting her beat us. If a base is open, we would have pitchers throw a lot of junk to see if she would chase, not giving her much to hit. Even in doing so, she's posted a near .500 batting average against us.
"As far as Hallie's future at FSU, I think she will accomplish great things and will always have that contagious smile while doing so. Hallie is one of the most humble players I've ever seen and I can wait to watch her in garnet and gold."
Taking the ball or bat out of a star player's hands is a common strategy for opposing coaches try to win a game. But Wacaser looks forward to the opportunity to swing the bat again when she suites of for Florida State.
"It's kind of weird getting walked 9 out of 12 times," Wacaser said. "I like to hit."
Wacaser will long be remembered as one of the finest stars in the short history of Bentonville West athletics. That status will be for more than just her athletic ability, West coach Anthony Cantrell said.
"Hallie impacts everyone she plays with and against," Cantrell said. "Her ability speaks for itself, but her personality is her best attribute. She is truly a role model for young people in this area."
At a glance
SCHOOL Bentonville West
CREDENTIALS Signed to play softball at Florida State. … Named Arkansas Gatorade Softball Player of the Year as a sophomore. … Helped lead Team USA in the fall in the U-17 Pan American Championships played in Barranquila, Colombia. … Hit a team-best .560 (14 for 25) with 2 home runs, 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored for Team USA. … Hit .511 with 25 doubles, 9 triples, 36 home runs and 140 RBIs over three seasons for Bentonville West. … Struck out only 15 times in her high school career, and only once last season. … Finished with a 4.1 grade-point average, ranking 37th out of a class of 446.
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID “Hallie Wacasar was always a tough hitter to face,” Bentonville coach Kent Early said. “She was the spark plug for West. How she goes, the team goes. She had the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat. Hallie was a great competitor.”