Auburn, Ala.--Struggling through a knee injury that hindered her through much of the 2016 season, Auburn softball senior shortstop Haley Fagan is back and ready to go as she and the Tigers prepare for another run at the Women’s College World Series.
Coming up just short each of the last two seasons, the Tigers are determined to finish it off this season and they are already hard at work. For Fagan that means continuing the comeback that started last year when she returned to play in 14 games as Auburn’s DH, hitting .231 with a home run and six RBI.
That’s a far cry from her redshirt sophomore season with the Tigers when she started all 67 games and hit .347 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI.
Healthy once again and confident in her ability on the field to make plays, Fagan said this team is hungry and looking to finish what they’ve gotten a taste of each of the last two seasons.
“I mean I think that all ties into it,my knee and then coming just short of winning a national championship,” Fagan said. “It’s almost worse when you come in second because you have to see the other team celebrate.
“That leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you see a lot of teams who, they come in second and then the next year they win it because you see how happy the other team is and feel how hurt you are. I think it all ties into everything. I think it definitely will push me to push our team to be better.”
That drive for Fagan comes after being forced to watch her teammates on the field a season ago and not being able to help. The lessons she learned as being a coach on the field for the Tigers are things she said will help when the games begin in February.
“Last year I wasn’t really around the team a lot because I was doing my rehab with turtle (Kelsey Bogaards) and we were with Lana (trainer Lana Meeks) the majority of the time, especially during hell week we weren’t outside too much.
“But just going through something like that, it’s definitely a mental exercise. It’s a lot physical, but just trying to push yourself and trying to get back out there is definitely mentally draining at times. I mean obviously anything that makes you tired or exhausted is always going to make you stronger. It’s a blessing. I’m really thankful for it.”
Taking on a leadership role is something that Fagan takes seriously as well. As one of just four seniors on the roster along with All-American Kasey Cooper, Jenna Abbott and Sydney Waldrop, Fagan said others such as Madi Gipson and Victoria Draper have stepped up their leadership as well.
Another leader for the Tigers is junior catcher Carlee Wallace.
One of the more experienced players on the team and someone who wears her emotion on her sleeve, Wallace said the goal is out there and this team is focused on making one more play, one more pitch, whatever it takes.
"I feel like the entire team, the people returning, we want to finish what we started," Wallace said. "I think it's just something that just fuels us and drives us every day. That, in itself, is going to make this team very dangerous because we have that desire and that hunger. I think it's a lot different when you finish second. That's one of the worst feelings I've ever felt.
"It's an honor when you look back and I'm thankful for that, but that was one of the worst feelings I've ever felt in my life, watching someone else's colors get shot out as confetti. I'll never forget that moment. We're not letting that go. We were able to let the first year go, but I'm not letting that go and I don't think I'll ever let that go."
Finished with the opening week of practices that Coach Clint Myers calls “Hell Week”, the Tigers will have Wednesday off for the first day of classes before getting back to work on Thursday. Auburn opens the season in Cancun, Mex. against defending national champion Oklahoma on Feb. 9. They’ll also face Washington that same day with games against Nebraska and BYU the following day on Feb. 10.