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'We all love challenges' - No. 2 Auburn softball to face elite pitcher in Tiger Invitational
Haley Fagan pays more attention to her amount of quality at-bats than her batting average.
Feb. 23, 2017

By Jeff Shearer
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. - Fans can look at Haley Fagan’s .290 batting average and note that Auburn’s senior shortstop is off to a solid start at the plate.

One person who won’t be looking at Fagan’s batting average: Haley herself.

“As I got older, I didn’t really look at my batting average as much anymore,” Fagan said. “I know that that’s important to a lot of people, but we have something called quality at-bats.”

Quality at-bats are generally defined as being productive in a way that fits the situation. That could mean advancing a runner, getting on base or running up the opponent’s pitch count. Even a hard hit ball that results in an out.

“As long as my quality at-bat percentage is high, then I’m feeling good in the box,” Fagan said.

Beginning with fall practice, Auburn’s coaches chart quality at-bats each day, looking for consistency.

With 14 of Auburn’s 21 position players being freshmen or sophomores, coach Clint Myers expects a learning curve.

“We have some of these young kids who have been successful their whole life,” Myers said. “They have to choose process over outcome. They’re moving to the outcome-based part, instead of the process.

“The outcome will work against so-so pitching, but you saw the outcome when we faced people who were throwing 68-74 mph, and that’s even with some of our veteran players. That’s tough to hit.”

In the Myers’ era, Auburn fans have gotten used to seeing power surges at Jane B. Moore Field. The 2015-16 teams averaged nearly 8 runs per game. In Auburn’s first 10 games this season, the Tigers are averaging 5.4.

“We’re getting phenomenal pitching. We’re playing pretty good defense,” Myers said. “We’re just not consistent in the batter’s box yet.”

 

 

Auburn, ranked No. 2, plays North Dakota Thursday at 6 p.m before hosting this weekend’s Tiger Invitational. Auburn will play No. 13 James Madison Saturday at 4:45 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

“You feel more excitement going into the game,” Fagan said. “Getting to play James Madison, obviously they have a great program. It’ll be really exciting. It’s a good challenge for us and we all love challenges.”

James Madison features one of nation’s top pitchers, Megan Good, who is 5-0 with a 0.41 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 34 innings.

“She’s one of the top pitchers in the country,” Myers said. “In order to be the best, you have to go against these good pitchers and execute.”

Auburn will counter with ace pitchers Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson, who have a combined record of 9-1 with a 0.79 ERA.

“I don’t really think about their pitcher,” Carlson said. “When I’m in the dugout, I’m rooting for our hitters so I want them to do well, and it’s harder for them if the pitchers is good.

“But I’m not really thinking about going out and competing against that pitcher. I’m just trying to do my job so my team has the opportunity to do theirs. I’m just trying to keep them in the game, so when they score runs, then we win.”

Myers urges patience with Auburn’s young hitters, reminding reporters that departed All-Americans Emily Carosone, Jade Rhodes and Tiffany Howard improved each season.

“When you lose the seniors that we have, everybody is comparing the past performance of the people you’re replacing,” Myers said.

“When the light goes on and you truly understand what is expected and you’re able to perform at the expectation, success comes easy.”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:

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