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 Bittany Maresette at 12:47 a.m. 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
Just hours before Haley Fagan made her 44th start of the season as the Tigers’ starting shortstop, Martin earned her 16th win and Maresette make 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 part in question. Auburn Football’s John Franklin, III was arrested last year and missed one game. Franklin is the current boyfriend of Haley Fagan.
While a third SEC straight championship was unlikely, a strong finish would possibly have secured a position as a 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. Many have projected that all thirteen SEC teams will 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 other two players absence could possibly sink Auburn’s chances at a run at the Women’s College World Series.
As has been written before here on Track ‘Em Tigers, Auburn’s offense isn’t what it was in last season’s back to back SEC Championship run. Instead, Auburn has won by being the nation’s leader in double plays and among the very best inside the circle. While Kaylee Carlson (21-2) is the unquestioned ace on Auburn’s staff, Mikayla Martin has been very good as the usual second pitcher in the rotation for three game series. Carlson’s low 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: 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 a starting roll? 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 and Auburn will likely have to play some players out of 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.
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 drop off from Fagan to her replacement?
After a preseason injury, Whitney Jordan started the entire season in place of Fagan 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 non-conference foes.
It is likely that Kendall Veach will be moved off of first base to the other corner to make room 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. She is hitting .370 in her 27 at-bats.
Kasey Cooper may move to shortstop. The issue here will be that Cooper does not have the speed or range of Fagan and while she is efficient, she will give up a lot more than Fagan.
While Auburn softball fans likely have 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+
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