Auburn, Ala.--Auburn softball is finishing fall camp in preparation for the 2017 season as the Tigers attempt to make it back to Oklahoma City for the third straight year after falling short in the Championship Series to the Oklahoma Sooners this past June.
Possibly the most excited of the bunch to start off hot in the new year will be senior shortstop Haley Fagan, who had to sit out most of season after having knee surgery before the season.
“After last year with blowing out my knee and stuff, it was hard sitting on the sidelines watching my team,” Fagan told Inside the Auburn Tigers. “I was really thankful to be able to contribute later on in the season, but being back out here this year (feels great). I just feel like a whole new person because it’s my last year and it’s my last shot to try and help this team win a national championship. I feel really good right now and I’m really excited about this upcoming season.”
In Fagan’s limited appearances in 2016, which included a season debut in the SEC Tournament against Alabama, the South Alabama transfer totaled 14 games played in the postseason with a .231 batting average, one home run and six RBIs.
As for her road to recovering and rehabbing the torn ACL, Fagan said she believes that the destination to “100 percent” recovery has been reached.
“All summer I was training hard, working out, practicing,” noted Fagan. “I’m definitely at full speed. Obviously, with two knee surgeries you never are really the same again, but as far as going as hard as I can and not being afraid to slide or having confidence in my swing again--I feel confident in that.”
Nevertheless, the inkling in the back of her mind remains in concerns to the possibility of getting hurt once more. It’s something that only resurfaces when she’s off the diamond though, according to Fagan.
“When I’m out (on the field) that fear is completely gone,” Fagan expressed. “I just focus on controlling my body as best as I can because I know that injuries are going to happen. As long as I can stay in good shape and be conscious of the way my body is moving and how it feels, then I can know when (I might need) to back off a little bit.”
Fagan’s attention in the offseason has been on returning to form defensively which she takes a lot of pride in. In the 2016 postseason she only appeared as a designated hitter. The Tigers were cautious in putting her back on the field especially after former shortstop Kelsey Bogaards was injured in her first game after coming off a torn ACL as well.
“(I’m working towards) being a lot more comfortable on defense again,” Fagan explained when asked about what part of her game she’s spent the most time on recently. “Obviously, at the end of the year I wasn’t playing defense because I wasn’t cleared to do that. I’m just making sure that by the time the season comes around I’m comfortable on defense with any and every situation that comes my way. I (want) to be ready for every type of ground ball and every double play.”
The Tigers will finish their fall exhibition schedule on Saturday. The Tigers play Northwest Florida State at 2:30 p.m. and Columbus State at 5 p.m.
Fagan and the softball Tigers open their season February 9th at the Triple Crown Tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico against the Washington Huskies at 1p.m. CDT.Their second game of the season will be later that evening at 7 p.m. vs. Oklahoma in a rematch of the WCWS Championship Series.
Auburn coach Clint Myers is a strong believer in Fagan's ability to be a difference-maker for the Tigers. "She is a great player," he said. "She has got a shot at being an All-American if she continues to play and stay healthy. She is going to be part of our offense, our defense and our leadership."