Haley Lee Hopes To Go Out With A Bang At Oklahoma
There was no way, she thought, as she woke up on the morning of May 22, 2021, in Norman, Okla. No way she could beat Texas A&M’s single-season home run record of 24 that had been standing since 2010.
But the day prior against Morgan State, she smacked a pitch up in the zone to dead center, tying the record on a grand slam. The next day, facing elimination against Wichita State, Lee stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with the Aggies down 4-0.
On a 3-1 pitch, the Shockers’ Caitlin Bingham tossed one low and inside. Lee tried throughout the game to not think much of getting the record—it was a “crazy” idea anyway. She simply wanted to “do what I was there to do, which was hit the ball.”
She took her approach, one she didn’t quite develop until college, one perfected by watching film on each pitcher she’s facing, or might face. Lee knows what the opponent’s go-to pitch is, whether they have a changeup or not and if she should sit on a certain pitch.
“But once you get in the box, it's a deep breath. It's an inhale, it's see your pitch. See it up in the zone. Just put your best swing on it,” Lee said.
This ball was low, but Lee sat back and cranked it into left field for a three-run home run, the record-setting jack that she explosively pumped her fist at while rounding second. That moment—her favorite as a softball player thus far—happened on the same field she’ll now call home.
Lee transferred to Oklahoma following the 2022 season and the exit of longtime Texas A&M head coach Jo Evans. Following her senior campaign, one that included an All-SEC First-Team selection, a .405 batting average, 15 home runs and 45 RBIs, Lee joined Patty Gasso’s star-studded lineup, hoping for a run at a national championship.
“I wanted to do something big and be a part of something big,” Lee said. “So I decided that OU was going to do that for me.”
Gasso pitched Oklahoma as a place Lee would have to earn a spot at. Despite her accolades, Aggies record and career .467 OBP, among other notable statistics, Lee knew she couldn’t walk in and demand a starting spot amongst a lineup full of “top players.” Through playing OU during her last two seasons at Texas A&M, Lee knows the Sooners are never out of a game.
“The game's not over in the fifth inning or when they're down by six,” Lee said. “It's gonna be a fight to the end, all seven innings and then some.”
Lee positioned herself as the fun player on the bench, one who is loud and full of energy. It’ll be her final season of college softball in 2023, so she’s not just at Oklahoma for the “easy ticket.” She’s bringing in a hot bat, but wants to grind and get to the Women's College World Series before graduating.
This is her last year to “ride the wave” before she can fully set her sights on other ventures, such as playing professionally in places like Japan or beginning a career as a scout for Major League Baseball, preferably for the Houston Astros, her favorite team.
Until then, it’s working on teeing up a good drop ball and elevating high pitches, or connecting on a nice pitch toward the middle-low end of the zone, one like the pitch that led to her record-breaking blast from 2021. She’s working on proving the recruiters wrong, those who didn’t reach out to her until her junior year of high school at a time when the best in the country were connecting with colleges during the seventh and eighth grades.
At the time, Lee said she was known for her catching. Back then, her hitting—an aspect of her game she’s now nationally known for—wasn’t as “consistent” as it is today. It was more hit or miss back then, she said. But Lee’s since cemented herself in SEC history, Aggies history and is now trying to find her place in Oklahoma’s history at a program known for historic seasons, players and coaches.
“I'm there to work, I'm there to grind,” Lee said. “I'm there to be better and make everyone else around me better.”