Sports

Haas signs with Southern Illinois

Olympic senior Lauren Haas (seen here taking a high pitch in a game last spring against CentralKitsap)didn’t wait around to sign a national letter of intent with Southbern Illinois University. She signed on Nov. 12 to become a Saluki, the first day of the early signing period. - File photo
Olympic senior Lauren Haas (seen here taking a high pitch in a game last spring against CentralKitsap)didn’t wait around to sign a national letter of intent with Southbern Illinois University. She signed on Nov. 12 to become a Saluki, the first day of the early signing period.
— image credit: File photo

Lauren Haas has always wanted to go to college.

The Olympic senior kept that plan in focus throughout high school, maintaining a 3.9 grade point average while lettering three years in soccer, basketball and softball.

And while it was her academics that kept her focused, it ended up being softball that opened the door to a full-ride scholarship at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., which Haas agreed to take when she signed a national letter of intent on Nov. 12, the first day of the early signing period.

“Lauren has great skills in the infield and is very quick. She will be an immediate offensive threat,” said SIU coach Kerri Blaylock. “We noticed her at a tournament in Colorado and feel fortunate she chose SIU.”

The Salukis are coming off a record-setting season, finishing 39-14 with an NCAA Tournament Regional final appearance and as one of the final 16 teams left in the NCAA Tournament.

Even more important for Lauren, the Bridge Division co-MVP in 2002 and first-team pick in 2003, was the emphasis the Salukis put on academics over athletics.

“They were sixth in grade point average among NCAA Division I schools last year,” Lauren said. “And that’s a big plus to me because academics is a big reason I’m going to college. I really felt (Blaylock) put academics before athletics and I didn’t feel that way at Georgia (where she also made a recruting trip.) It seemed just the opposite.”

Lauren, who started playing T-ball at age 5 and select softball at age 9, received a number of scholarship offers, including Eastern Kentucky, Wright State (Ohio), Radford (Va.), Georgia and SIU, but she wasn’t always sure she wanted to play softball at college, according to her mother Pattie Haas.

“She wasn’t originally going to play softball,” Pattie said. “She wanted to concentrate on academics.”

A couple of influential phone calls changed all that.

“(Olympic coach) Rachel Davenport told Lauren (balancing athletics and academics at college) was something she could do,” Pattie said. “And then Wayne Hardy (Lauren’s 18U select coach) called and around Spring Break she really picked it up again.”

“Coach Davenport told me playing college softball is one of the greatest experiences she’s had,” Lauren said. “I’m happy with my decision. I know I’m going to be part of a good program and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Lauren batted .456 for the Trojans as a junior in addition to her duties as the No. 1 starting pitcher. She also hit .387 with 53 RBIs and 21 stolen bases last season with the Lacey-based Heat.

Her scholarship to SIU includes everything but room and board her freshman year. After that it’s all taken care of.

“My parents are very excited,” Lauren said, noting her father Dan is already making plans to come visit. “They definitely like the fact they won’t have to pay for much college.”

Besides academics, Blaylock’s approach helped sell Lauren on SIU.

“I really like Kerri’s style of coaching and the way she approached me,” Lauren said. “She called me and said she wasn’t going to screw around recruiting and over-recruit. From that point, I knew that’s where I would end up because she was upfront about everything. She told me that I might not come in playing shortstop. I’ll probably be at third or second base, but it’s all up in the air right now.”

Something else in the air is what Lauren wants to major in.

“Pharmacy or dental hygiene, I’m really undecided,” she said during a break in Thursday’s basketball practice. “My mind changes every week. I know I want to do something with medicine.”

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