News at WilmU

Haley Downin: Officially Elite

Haley Downin

Anyone connected with the Wilmington University softball program over the past four years has known that Haley Downin is elite. Now, it’s official. 

Last May, Downin received the NCAA Elite 90 Award, which honors the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 90 championships. The first Wildcat athlete to be named an Elite 90 award winner, Downin was presented with the award at the banquet that began the week-long NCAA Division II National Softball Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

The individual accolade capped off a historic season of achievements for the Wildcat team. They won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Regular Season Title, the CACC Tournament Championship, the NCAA DII East Region 2 Tournament, and the East Super Regional Series to advance for the first time to the NCAA DII Softball Championships.

What’s more, their peers selected Head Coach Mike Shehorn and his staff — James Brittingham, Tom Freeland, and Jerry Grasso — as the 2023 ATEC/NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year. 

Downin, a graduate of Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, Maryland, has excelled in the classroom and on the playing field since enrolling at WilmU in 2019. 

Shehorn recruited her as a pitcher, but her freshman season in the circle was cut short by COVID. Last year, she played primarily first base, and in previous years she pitched and played second. 

Thanks to her athleticism, the 5-foot-7 Downin can play anywhere, and she has. Last season, Shehorn used her as catcher for a couple of innings, marking the ninth position she has played for the team. 

In 2023, Downin hit .306 while collecting six doubles, a triple, a homer, and 21 RBI. She’s a career .322 hitter with 143 hits, 30 doubles, three triples, two homers and 57 RBI. She has scored 83 runs and stolen 28 bases in her four years. She’s also made 38 pitching appearances for the Wildcats, totaling 137.2 innings and registering a 4.42 ERA with 80 strikeouts.

Clearly a high achiever in the classroom, Downin received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology last spring, finishing with a 3.99 cumulative grade point average. She’s currently pursuing a master’s in Applied Family Science. After earning that degree in 2025, she says she will immediately begin studying for a second master’s in School Psychology.

Of her academic achievements, Downin says: “I’m very strict about school work, and I’m very organized. I get everything done weeks ahead of time. My anxiety makes me do things early instead of procrastinating, which I guess is a good thing.”

“She’s not just a vocal leader; she also leads on the field.”

Mike Shehorn

A standout in both basketball and softball at Chesapeake High, Downin was recruited by several schools, including George Mason, the University of Maryland, Seton Hill, and the University of Delaware.

She says she chose WilmU because it’s only a 90-minute drive to her home in Pasadena, and she “loved the coaches.”

“I also liked the atmosphere,” she adds, “and the fact that there were no dorms was a big selling point for me. I like having more of a homey feel.”

One of the team’s four co-captains, she’s enjoying her last year of athletic eligibility while living with a softball player and a basketball player in an apartment on Route 40, across from the school’s athletic complex. She originally intended to play both basketball and softball at the University. “I was going to redshirt the first year for basketball and see how things went,” she says, “but there was a coaching change, so I decided to let that go and focus on softball.”

“Softball has been an interesting journey for sure,” she says. “COVID messed it up a little bit, so I never really had a freshman year. Now that we’re finally back to normal, it’s been really fun. Going to the College World Series last year was an amazing experience. We had a great time bonding together and going to all the different events. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Downin and Shehorn connected almost immediately. “Coach Mike and I have always had a really good, open relationship,” she says. “He tries to have that with everybody. He can be serious, but he does like to have fun. And he’s also very family-oriented. When we travel, he makes sure the schedule allows us to get together with our families.”

Shehorn calls Downin “one of our leaders.”

“She handles so many things, like updates on meetings, making sure everyone has the right gear,” he says. “She takes the initiative on these things. And she’s not just a vocal leader; she also leads on the field.”

Downin hopes to pursue a career as a middle school psychologist while coaching basketball or softball. “I usually help coach my high school basketball team while we’re on winter break,” she says.

When she’s home, she also plays in pickup games at the high school gym with her dad and what she calls “his old man crew.”  

She calls her father, Leroy, her hero. “He still tears it up on the basketball court,” she says. “We’re both very competitive, and I would love for him to be on my team all the time, but the other players say that’s not fair.”

Two Downins on the same team? That does seem unfair.

— Bob Yearick

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