BY BRYCE PHILLIPS, Elizabethton Star
With one year left of high school ball left to go, Elizabethton senior softball player Haley Fair went ahead and made it official with her future collegiate home Wednesday.
At Elizabethton High School, in front of friends and family, Fair signed her name with Cleveland State Community College, where she will play softball for the Cougars under head coach Katie Willingham.
Over Fair’s first three years with the Lady Cyclones, the Elizabethton softball program has seen a lot of success. In 2017, the Lady Cyclones made it to the state tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
“These past three years of my life have been the best,” said Fair. “I love my teammates. I have made the best memories ever.
“I just want us to be better this year,” added Fair her senior season. “We have been working and getting better, and I hope my senior year is the best year.”
One of Fair’s most memorable moments came her freshman year during a Region 1-AA title showdown with rival Unicoi County. In the top of the eighth, Fair, with the game tied at 2, blasted a two-run run homer that led to an eventual 4-2 win for Elizabethton and the program’s first-ever region title.
To this day, Elizabethton head coach Ken Hardin remembers the hit like it was yesterday.
“In the regional tournament, we had to bring her off the bench in a big situation,” said Hardin. “We had runners on, and I am always going to bunt to try and score that winning run. She didn’t get the bunt down. She gets two strikes on her, so we let her swing away. She hits a rocket out of the park. We won region on the back of a little freshman. I get teared up every time I think about it.”
For the Lady Cyclones, Fair suits up as the catcher and has been in that spot since her freshman season.
“Her freshman year, we are part way through the season, and we lose a catcher,” said Hardin. “She was our back us catcher as a freshman, and she was very good then. She is one of the best defensive catchers that I have ever had.”
During Fair’s visit to Cleveland State, she said the staff made her feel at home which led to her eventually choosing the school.
“In past years, Coach (Steve) Jaecks, who is an assistant coach at Cleveland now, used to be an assistant coach at Chattanooga,” said Fair. “My old pitching coach and hitting coach, Katie Robinson, played for him when he coached at Chattanooga. When I got to Cleveland State, I wanted to be my self. When I got out of the car, I was like, ‘Hey, guys!’ I was trying to sound really excited. And Coach said, ‘Oh, gosh, here is another Robinson.’ I was thinking, ‘Ok, this is a good start.'”
Fair said that she went through the workouts, and Coach Jaecks should her around the campus.
“He was super funny,” said Fair. “Everything was really relaxed. Everyone was really nice. It just felt like a good fit, and I enjoyed it very much.”