Butler softball’s Lauren Fey playing key role in freshman season

Lauren Fey at the plate for Butler. Fey leads the Bulldogs in batting average and on-base percentage. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo. 

KEELEN BARLOW | STAFF REPORTER | klbarlow@butler.edu

Poor La Salle. The Explorers didn’t stand a chance.

Butler freshman outfielder Lauren Fey kept laying down bunt after bunt after bunt, and she kept getting on base. By the end of the game, she had four bunts and a triple.

The Butler softball team beat LaSalle 6-5 on March 17. Lauren etched her name in the school record books in just her 23rd game in a Bulldog uniform.

She doesn’t like to be the center of attention. For the most part, unless Lauren speaks up, you can’t tell she is in the room.

She was certainly the center of attention after her showing that day.  

With a 5-for-5 performance at the plate against the Explorers, Lauren tied the Butler record for hits in a game. Former Bulldog Jenny Jacobs notched five hits against Longwood back in February 2008.

Most important to Lauren? The team won.

She was named to the Big East conference weekly honor roll for her showing. The team didn’t realize Lauren had made Butler history until later. What did she do when she heard the news?

Shrugged it off.

Fellow freshman Zoe Herdman, who Lauren considers to be one of her best friends on the team, immediately congratulated Lauren on the news.

“I wasn’t surprised at all that she broke a record,” Herdman said. “I just kept telling her how much of a stud she is and how proud I was of her.”

But on a day when no one would blame her for feeling good about herself — because how many other freshmen have tied a school record — Lauren remained humble.

“Honestly, we just needed base runners and scorers in that game so I just tried to do what the team needed,” Lauren said. “It was all just kind of nonchalant really, but still a really cool situation.”

Butler was 8-16 heading into that matchup and had lost six straight games. Lauren didn’t need a win that day, the team did.

But she has reason to be humble, and not just because she plays for a school whose motto is the “The Butler Way.” The injury, and the accident, could have been much worse.

It could have prevented her from being where she is today.

******

Sports were everything in the Fey household. Everyone loved sports, everyone played sports and everyone was ultra competitive.

Lauren’s parents have been to all but five of Butler’s 43 games this year. By the time the regular season is finished they will have seen her play in eight states including Rhode Island, New Jersey and Florida.

For the Feys, vacations, birthday parties, entire lives were planned around sports.

Both of Lauren’s parents played high school sports. Her mother, Marni Fey, played volleyball at Franklin College in south-central Indiana. All three of her older brothers played sports. Her brother Bradley Fey played baseball in high school and basketball at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

“[My older brothers playing sports] really had a huge impact on where I am today,” Lauren said. “It gave me role models to look up to and something to envision for myself.”

When the siblings were younger, they played everything imaginable in the backyard. High-stakes games of wiffle ball and cornhole were a regular occurrence. In a basketball-crazed state like Indiana, games of “Horse” and “21” were never left out.

Lauren and Bradley were always on one team. Christopher and Andrew Fey were on the other.

Lauren, the youngest of the house and the only girl, took her fair share of bumps and bruises. She hated to lose to her brothers.

“I didn’t really know it at the time but [my brothers] were helping me for the future,” Lauren said. “Now I am so thankful that they pushed me when I was young because I have high expectations for myself.”

It was only a matter of time, and no surprise, that Lauren began picking up sports at a young age. She started playing softball at five years old and never looked back.

How did she get so good at bunting? Her father, Steve Fey, would practice bunting drills with her in their backyard. She joked with her eighth grade travel coach as a kid that “she was only good at bunting because she couldn’t hit.”

Now she can do both.

Bradley said Lauren was quicker, faster and smarter than everyone she played with from the get go. Fey’s mother was her Little League softball coach when she was just starting out.

Bradley described her as “tough as nails.”  

“We always joked growing up that Lauren would end up being the best athlete out of all of us,” said Bradley, now the director of basketball operations for the men’s basketball program at Appalachian State University. “Even when she was taking her lumps and getting beat 21-0 in games growing up, we always joked that she would turn out to be the best.”

Lauren was quick to note that she didn’t always lose to her brothers.

Once she got to high school, those years of playing in the yard with her brothers began to pay off very quickly.

Lauren was a three-sport athlete at Roncalli High School on the southside of Indianapolis. She played varsity basketball for four years, varsity volleyball for three years and varsity softball for four years. Lauren lettered in softball all four years.

Her teams had a 223-99 record in her four years as a varsity athlete. The softball team went 96-23 in her four years. Across her career, she won an IHSAA sectional championship in all three sports.

Lauren had just one losing season in her high school career.

“She may have played all these sports in high school, but the good thing about it was that whatever sport she was playing at the time, that was her favorite,” Marni, her mother, said. “She was always playing in the moment.”

Lauren hit .526 in her senior softball season and was tied for the team lead in stolen bases. She led the volleyball team with 699 assists during her senior volleyball season when the team was Marion County champs. Lauren played more of a reserve role for the basketball team but still saw action in the majority of the team’s games.

“For me, it was kind of a breath of fresh air that a kid could still be a three-sport athlete in high school and that actually interested me a lot,” Butler softball coach Scott Hall said. “She didn’t feel the need to play 100-plus softball games every summer.”

But despite Lauren’s high school successes and a career batting average of .453 for the Rebels, she was under-recruited in high school.

Due to the fact she played three sports in high school, Lauren didn’t truly commit to playing college softball until near the halfway point of her high school career. She also didn’t play much travel softball, where most recruiting happens.

The recruiting process didn’t start for Lauren until she was a junior, so she flew under the radar. She was only recruited by a few schools to play softball.

It took a call from Lauren’s softball coach at Roncalli, David Lauck, for Hall to take a look at her. Hall had never seen her play before the phone call.

It didn’t take long until Hall was sold.  

In October 2017, Lauren committed to play at Butler. She grew up watching the Butler men’s basketball team and liked the idea of playing close to home.  

******

When the doctors told Lauren about the surgery she was going to have to go through, she passed out. She didn’t think it would be that serious.

After all, Lauren didn’t feel any major pain in her back. It took her travel softball coach pointing it out for Lauren to realize something was wrong. She was sitting on a bucket during a game and her coach noticed that Lauren’s back was elevated higher on one side.

So, she took a trip to the doctor.

The verdict? Her condition had worsened.

At a younger age, doctors diagnosed Lauren with scoliosis, a condition that results in the curvature of an individual’s spine.

Not exactly the ideal situation for an athlete, but her condition wasn’t as serious as others.

“At the time, it wasn’t much of an issue for her,” Marni said. “With a lot of patients, they will watch for years or have to wear a brace, but Lauren never had anything like that.”

While Lauren had known about her back for quite some time, what potentially caused her condition to flare up happened in June 2011.

Bradley was driving home one afternoon when a woman ran a stop sign and t-boned the Fey’s car. The other driver’s car flipped over theirs, and Bradley and Lauren ended up in a ditch.

Three months after the accident, doctors recommended that Lauren have back surgery. It’s unclear what role the accident played in increasing the severity of Lauren’s back condition.

It’s just a one mile drive between the Fey’s house and Roncalli, but their car was totaled in that short distance.

“It was pretty much a normal day. It’s a drive that I’ve made a thousand times before and a thousand times afterwards,” Bradley said. “That one was just a little more memorable.”

Besides a few bumps and bruises, neither Lauren or Bradley were seriously injured. The other driver went to the hospital.

Bradley remembers several people gathering at the scene to make sure everyone was OK. He also remembers how strong Lauren stayed during the accident.

“At time, it all happened so quickly that I really didn’t have the chance to scream ‘stop’ or anything,” Lauren said. “It just happened.”

Lauren had surgery in December and was forced to miss her seventh grade softball season. Due to the pain, Lauren was in the hospital for nearly a week after her surgery.

When Lauren was finally released, she was forced to use a walker to get around. She would bring two pillows, one to sit on and one for her back during school hours. Marni would walk her into class in the morning and carry her backpack during the recovery.

Lauren was very cautious and nervous for her first game back, a travel softball game the next summer.

“I was definitely very timid for it,” Lauren said. “I remember my dad telling me not to slide or do anything to mess up my back again.”

Now, she plays with 23 screws and 2 rods in her back. She used to have 24 screws but one was removed after it loosened. Lauren wears a kevlar back brace that her father Steve bought online.

At first, it acted as a confidence booster for Lauren in her return to softball. Now, she wouldn’t want to play without it.

Now, it’s not even a big deal anymore.

Scoliosis is in the past. Lauren likes to live in the moment.

******

Watch Lauren play, and you couldn’t tell she’s had major back surgery. La Salle definitely couldn’t tell. Hall didn’t even know about it until she showed up for Butler’s fall workouts.

She shoots around the base paths and shows off such speed in the field that opposing teams would never know.

That game against La Salle kick-started what has been an impressive run at the plate over the second half of the season for Lauren and an eye-opening freshman campaign.

If the season ended today, Lauren would be the first true freshman to lead Butler in batting average since, well, Jenny Jacobs in 2005. As of April 23, Fey is hitting .333 on the year.

Between March 16 and April 7, Fey had 21 hits over 12 games. In that same stretch she had a hit in 10 of those contests. Fey also has 11 multi-hit games this year for the Bulldogs.

“For me, it’s not really even about hits or RBI,” Lauren said. “Depending on the situation, I’m just trying to do what I can for the team.”

Lauren has reached base in 19 of the team’s last 23 games this season and leads the Bulldogs with a .397 on-base percentage. She relies on her speed to beat out many throws to first on infield singles.

Many times, Hall doesn’t even signal at Lauren for her to bunt. She reads the game herself and plays to each situation.

If you can bet on anything happening on a Butler softball game day, it’s:

  1. Lauren Fey will get on base  
  2. She will always rock her pink gameday Crocs prior to first pitch.

There are no special pregame routines she practices or meals that Lauren eats on a gameday, but the pink crocs are a must. So is her competitive drive.

“She definitely pushes you to be competitive and be a better and do your best,” Herdman said. “It makes you want to take your game to that next level.”

Taking her game to the next level is what Lauren will have to do to get better in the Big East. Opponents will learn to respect the bunt and there will now be film on Lauren’s strengths at the plate.

Sadly for opposing teams, the film on Lauren Fey will only tell a fraction of the story. Things like toughness and perseverance don’t show up on tape.

Everything Lauren has been through prepared her better than any bunting practice in the backyard ever could.

Authors

Related posts

*

Top