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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Bryan-College Station Regional participants announced
Ian Curtis, Sports Writer • May 27, 2024

For the second time in three seasons, No. 3 national seed Texas A&M baseball will host the Bryan-College Station Regional, where it’ll...

Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

All-American, still swinging

Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

Senior Haley Lee happily rounds the bases after scoring a home run in the first game of the doubleheader. 

Based on the lofty expectations from past success, the 2021 Texas A&M softball season may seem insignificant from a distance.
After watching a promising start in 2020 be uprooted by COVID-19, the Aggies finished the following season without an uproar, carrying a 32-23 record that included an 8-16 record in SEC play and a three-game exodus in the NCAA Norman Regional.
Despite the buffer in team success, the 2021 season saw the formation of a strong foundation that has given the squad an immeasurable ceiling heading into 2022.
A key piece of that foundation is Haley Lee.
The senior catcher and utility player had a historic 2021, setting A&M’s all-time marks for home runs in a season and led the team in hits, RBIs and slugging percentage. Her efforts were nationally recognized, as she earned All-American Third Team honors and was named Softball America’s Most Improved Player of 2021.
Lee’s ascendance as an elite hitter was no surprise to her peers, as she has been one of the most consistent bats on the squad over the last three seasons. However, her journey to this point has been fueled by her growth as a player and leader.
Nonetheless, A&M was not Lee’s first option. The Kingwood native was originally recruited to play for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. However, after then-head coach Michael Lotief’s sudden departure from the program, Lee decided to reassess her recruiting options.
A&M coach Jo Evans was already familiar with Lee from recruiting her teammates in the past. When news broke that the catcher had reopened her recruitment, Evans jumped at the opportunity.
“I was very impressed with her,” Evans said. “I had that little bit of envy thinking, ‘Man, I wish we would have landed her.’ When we got a chance to talk, I enjoyed her personality and was immediately excited to get the chance to coach her.”
Recruits who make their decision early often have a wide span of time to meet with teammates and coaches to acclimate to their new collegiate environment. Since Lee’s change of plans came abruptly, she entered Aggieland without the chance to establish such familiarity.
“She committed, and next thing you knew it she was here,” Evans said. “I think she had some catching up to do. She has really figured out who she is and what she wants.”
With A&M’s reputation of unique traditions and passionate fans, it can be difficult for a freshman to adjust to the culture without ample time for immersion, and Lee needed time to acclimate. The normally vocal and extroverted catcher was relatively shelled and private during her early time in Aggieland.
While her personality needed time to mesh with the dynamic of a collegiate career, her style of play fell right into place. In just her third game, she earned her first career home run with a three-run blast against Northern Colorado.
Lee suited up for 52 of the Aggies’ 55 games during the 2019 campaign, earning 49 starts and totaling a .269 batting average. After her freshman year, she was ready to take the next step toward becoming a force on the field and a character in the locker room.
Her sophomore season got off to a fiery start. Lee appeared in each of the Aggies’ first 26 games, recording seven home runs and raising her batting average to .324 for the season.
Just as she was beginning to hit her stride as an athlete, the sports world was put on pause. The remainder of the 2020 season was abruptly canceled due to COVID-19, and Lee would have to stifle the peak of her performance for nearly a calendar year.
While this was a disappointing moment for her, Lee said it helped her learn to roll with the punches and work with the situation she was dealt.
“It was crazy,” Lee said. “I have had to learn to be adaptable. You do not know what is coming around the corner, so being able to be adaptable is important.”
While it would have been understandable to rest on one’s momentum during such an unprecedented situation, Lee continued to hone her craft during the time away from competition.
After the hiatus, she was ready to go in 2021, and College Station woke a sleeping giant.
In 55 starts, Lee amassed 51 RBIs off of 65 hits, 25 home runs and a career-high .422 batting average. Her most dominant performance came when the team needed her most, as she helped to keep the Aggies alive in the NCAA regional against Morgan State with a five-RBI, two home run performance.
Even though the season ended on a sour note with A&M losing to Wichita State in its next game, Lee is prepared to carry the positives into a productive 2022 campaign. Although she crammed the stat sheet in 2021, she wants to improve on more than just her on-field performance in her senior season.
“I want to grow as a leader,” Lee said. “We have a lot of younger players on the team and I want to continue to set an example. I want to grow and help to build off of the big season that I had in 2021.”
Evans believes Lee has found her voice on the team. She is prepared to make the jump from star player to team leader: a trait Evans believes is more valuable than any accolade on the field.
“It has obviously been exciting to see her become an All-American, but it has been even more exciting to see her become the face of our program,” Evans said. “This is one of the most rewarding parts of coaching.”

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