SEC Pitcher of the week Lauren Haeger done a lot in her career from the circle and from the plate. Twice she’s been named NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team, she’s a member of the 2013 NFCA All-America First Team as well as the 2013 All-SEC First Team, 2012 All-Freshman and All-Tournament teams. As a freshman she led the team in home runs, RBIs an, doubles and walks as a batter. As a sophomore she once again led the team in homers and RBI while showing her stuff in the circle where she struck out 10 against Longwood and won six games against top-25 opponents.
There’s one thing she hadn’t done until last Sunday in Tampa: throw a no-hitter.
She’s been close, like in 2012 when she had two-hitters on two separate occasions including against Auburn when she went 6-1/3 innings before giving up a home run and a base hit. She can finally cross off one line on her pitching bucket list after completing a no-no against the Wisconsin Badgers.
“I was really excited because I’d never had one here before,” Haeger said. “I’ve been really close but always in the end give it up in the seventh inning or something like that. I was really excited, just happy that I could do that for everybody…it was a first for me.”
The no-hitter was part of a 2-0 weekend in the circle for Haeger, who helped the Florida Gators move up to #1 nationally in the softball polls with a 6-0 opening weekend. The Gators will go for their seventh straight win tonight when they play host to Jacksonville University in their home opener at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium (6 p.m.).
Haeger said a few innings into the game, she knew her stuff was on because she was feeling her pitches and “hitting her spots.” It’s a testament to the fact that she’s been working on being a pitcher instead of just being a thrower. As the game went on, the stakes got higher, and the magnitude of her achievement grew in the back her mind, but she tried to take thinks one pitch at a time.
“I mean you really try not to think about because you don’t want to jinx it,” Haeger said. “I knew it was there just because I looked at the board, and I was trying not to think about it and I was just like ‘do what you’ve been doing the whole game and if it happens it happens.’”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though; she hit a batter in the fifth and allowed a runner to get on base via a fielding error. She walked three, and actually allowed a run but also tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts.
“One of our goals a pitching staff is to limit our walks,” Haeger said. “Walks are free and you want to make them earn it. So that was kind of a bummer, I went into the dugout like ‘ya they didn’t get a hit but I walked a run in, and that’s not acceptable really.”
She admitted to apologizing to her coach and said she needed to calm down in that moment and just “hit my spot, focus on the strike zone.” She doesn’t apologize for the way she pitches all the time though, aggressively and emotionally.
Now that her crowning achievement as a pitcher is behind her, she looks forward to Wednesday’s home opener against Jacksonville University. Her plan is to focus on her first love, and that isn’t striking batters out.
“I mean for me pitching has never been my thing and so I think it was cool for me to do that but now I really just want to get my hitting going,” Haeger said. “My team needs me for hitting too and so you kinda just have to get past it. It’s a cool thing, I can now say that I had a no-hitter but really just the same mentality I’ve had.”
UPDATE (2/12, 11:22 AM): Wednesday’s game against Jacksonville University has been postponed.
Home Opener Postponed to Feb. 19 Due to Inclement Weather Forecast http://t.co/AoPeG1Uunw
— Gator Softball (@GatorZoneSBall) February 12, 2014