By: Charles Kingsbury
In softball, the pitchers usually get all of the ink.
The games are on their arms. The pitchers get the wins, but there’s a lineup of hitters who deal with the strike zone, the fast pitch and the pressure of producing runs.
However, sophomore righty Lauren Haeger has to balance all of the above.
The Peoria, Ariz., native has played an integral role on both sides of the plate in her second year for the third-ranked Florida Gator softball team.
Since arriving to Gainesville, she’s been the Gators’ go-to closing pitcher and the bat support needed in pressure situations.
Haeger’s relief appearance versus No. 8 Tennessee on March 17 was her second scoreless relief outing against a ranked team over the course of a week.
Against Alabama on March 6, Haeger threw two scoreless innings against the then-No. 1 Crimson Tide. She struck out four batters while holding Alabama hitless.
In the lineup, Haeger has been equally impressive.
Her 12 home runs are tied for fourth most in the NCAA and is the highest total of any starting or relief pitcher in the nation. Only two other starting or relief pitchers – UCLA’s Ally Carda and Iowa St.’s Tori Torrescano – have eclipsed 10 over the course of the season.
Against USC Upstate on March 21, Haeger’s slugging ability was on display.
After a lead-off single from Kirsti Merritt in the second inning, Haeger stepped to the plate with runners in scoring position. She took a pitch outside right in her wheelhouse and belted a two-run home run just over the left corner of the wall at Kate Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Showing bunt in her next at-bat, Haeger pulled back and shot a line drive to right-center for two more RBI – ultimately putting the game out of hands for USC.
It’s been this unique dynamic that has helped Florida halfway through the season. Haeger is a dual threat with enough power and endurance to go the distance on both mound and above the outfield wall.
When the Gators take the field against the Seminoles on Wednesday at 6 p.m., Haeger will be called on in more ways than one.