How Will the Arrest of Three Auburn Softball Players Affect Auburn’s Post-Season Play?
Haley Fagan is 4th on the team in batting average and tied for third with six homers (photo: AU media file)
Fresh off of an out-of- conference win against Kennesaw State, three Auburn softball players were arrested Thursday. The police responded to a call at an address on East Samford Street before arresting Haley Fagan, Makayla Martin, and Brittany Maresette at 12:47 a.m. on misdemeanor possession charges. All three are suspended indefinitely and did not travel with the team for the series against South Carolina. It is the first arrest for all three players
The three were taken into custody just hours after Haley Fagan made her 44th start of the season as the Tigers’ starting shortstop, Martin earned her 16th win, and Maresette made her 17th appearance..
How will this affect the three players’ futures or Auburn’s post-season play?
The first thing that should be said is that there is a chance the three will return, though the length of punishment will be the questionable issue. Auburn football’s John Franklin, III was arrested last year for the same offense and missed only one game. Franklin is the Fagan’s current boyfriend.
While a third SEC straight championship was unlikely, a strong finish would possibly secure a position as host to the Regional and Super Regional tournaments.
Auburn is currently ranked 4th in the SEC behind Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Had the series against Tennessee not been canceled, the Tigers would likely be in the third spot. As many as thirteen SEC teams may make post season play, so being one of the top ranked teams was important, not only for seeding but for hosting.
Auburn won’t immediately miss freshman outfielder Maresette, who as a pinch runner is second on the depth chart behind Bree Fornis. However, the absense of the other two could possibly sink Auburn’s chances at a run at the Women’s College World Series.
As has been written before on Track ‘Em Tigers, Auburn’s offense isn’t what it was in its back to back SEC Championship runs. Instead, Auburn has won by leading the nation in double plays and being among the best inside the circle.
Kaylee Carlson (21-2) is the unquestioned ace on Auburn’s staff, but Makayla Martin has been very good as the usual second pitcher in the three-game series rotation. Carlson’s ERA of 1.26 isn’t much better than Martin’s 2.05, and the two are deadlocked with 88 and 87 strikeouts, respectively.
Auburn’s bullpen has only two other possibilities for possible starters: long-time utility player Jenna Abbott and freshman Ashley Swindle. Abbott has been very good in her six appearances, but Swindle has struggled with a 3.82 ERA. Can Carlson handle additional innings, or will one of the two relievers have to step into the starting role? Either possibility dampens the chances of a championship. With Abbott pitching, Auburn will likely look to get Madi Gipson involved somehow.
While Auburn has a wealth of outfield options, there aren’t many options for the infield. Some one will likely have to step into an unfamiliar position.
Enter the other half of Auburn’s winning ways: double plays. Fagan is the centerpiece of Auburn’s defense and despite having the most balls hit her way, she is fielding at a .948 clip while turning 16 double plays this season. After a preseason injury to Fagan in 2016, Whitney Jordan started the entire season at shortstop. Fagan’s return moved Jordan into a starting role in the outfield but Jordan was simply woeful at the plate and she eventually lost her job. She has the second worst batting average on the entire team with a .121 against mostly non-conference foes.
Kendall Veach will likely move from first base to the other corner to make room at first for Jenna Abbott when she is not pitching. Abbott has played first base on multiple occasions, and is the first player off the bench to hit, batting .370 in her 27 at-bats.
Kasey Cooper may move to shortstop, but here issue here is that Cooper does not have Fagan’s the speed or range, While she is efficient, she will give up a lot more than Fagan does.
The loss of Fagan’s bat will certainly be missed as she is fourth on the team in batting average and tied for third with six homers. What will be the expected dropoff from Fagan to her replacement?
While Auburn softball probably has seen the end of another championship run, the biggest loser has to be fifth-year senior Haley Fagan. Not only was graduation just a month away, but the National Pro Fastpitch draft was just four days away and she was expected to be a very high draft pick.
Auburn takes on South Carolina tonight at 5:30 on SEC Network+.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Best5Zach as I post live updates and commentary during this weekend’s series.