Kentucky Bound: Fagerness Moving Across the Country to Play Baseball at Campbellsville University
COUNTRY BALL: Napavine Alum Continuing Collegiate Career After Two Years at Big Bend
By Matt Baide
There is only one Kentucky Fried Chicken in Moses Lake. Luckily for Sam Fagerness, he’s about to get some real home-cooked Kentucky chicken.
After completing a two-year career at Big Bend Community College, Fagerness is heading to Campbellsville University to play baseball for two more years.
Fagerness was a Napavine Tiger from 2013-2017, winning a football state title in his senior year. The baseball team finished fourth at state that year as Fagerness was trying to figure out what he wanted to do after high school.
“The culture and everything fit. It’s what my high school coaches preached throughout my four years in Napavine and (I) ended up signing there about two weeks later and I think it was like mid April,” Fagerness said. “It turned out to be a great decision. I had two great years over in Moses Lake, (and I) enjoyed it.”
While he misses football, he said he was actually happy about focusing on baseball full time.
“That was one of the things I was actually really excited about to begin with when I was going to be a collegiate baseball athlete was all baseball. Getting used to it was super weird. Show up in the fall and it’s baseball in the fall,” Fagerness said. “You have a five-to six-week baseball fall season and then you get like a week off and then about a month and a half until winter break, you’re in the gym in the morning, you’re grinding out and doing that kind of thing and once you get back from break, it’s baseball season again. I think that was the one thing that wasn’t challenging, just different to get used to.”
While he played against some great teams and players in the Central 2B League, it’s tough to prepare for the challenge of playing college baseball and competing with teammates for playing time.
“The things that really separate people at the next level is just the work ethic and what they do off the field. The first couple weeks were tough, I talked about having a rough fall and a lot of that actually just stemmed down to having the self confidence to where I’m just as good if not better than most of these guys,” Fagerness said. “As far as competition level goes, I think, on the offensive side of things, it took a little bit of getting used to. You see a couple of the velocity type in the Central 2B, maybe one or two pitchers a year. You get to the NWAC level and you’re seeing a rotation of four… usually a rotation is going to have two to three guys that are 87 to 89, one guy might be consistent around 90. They’re usually always going to have a good breaking ball. That’s either a slider or a curveball. …The adjustment was for sure challenging.”
One of the biggest adjustments for Fagerness in the NWAC was switching to a wood bat after using a metal bat for four years in Napavine.
“It’s definitely a different feel. It’s the same barrel diameter but different sweet spot size and so that’s the cool thing about the NWAC is it’s one of only two or three collegiate conferences in the country that swing a wood bat,” Fagerness said. “It’s really how you learn to be a true hitter. With a wood bat, you have to do everything right or else you’re usually not going to be rewarded. With a metal bat, you can get jammed and you still might find barrel and you might be able to put it down the left field line. I’ll probably swing a wood bat 70 percent of the time in practice next year just cause it gives you quicker feedback and it gives you the ability to make quicker adjustments because you’re not really feeling what you would with a metal bat.”
It was tough for Fagerness starting out at Big Bend. After having a rough fall, it took him a while during the spring before he capitalized on his opportunity.
“I think it was like the third week of the season and we were up by a lot at one point and coach was like, ‘Hey, just get a bat.’ I got my first AB and it was like a little blooper down the right field line and at first, I was all pissed that I was like shoot, I just blew this first opportunity,” Fagerness said. “It was a little bleeder. Well, it dropped in for a hit and I was like, welp, I’ll take it, whatever.”
The following day, Fagerness was already scheduled to start due to other players having class on a Monday, and he took full advantage of his opportunity.
“I think I was 2-for-4 in the first game. In the next game, I was 3-for-4 with a double and a home run and I was like, well shoot,” Fagerness said. “This was like three weeks into the season, it just started and I earned my opportunity and kind of just rolled with it. I had an awesome freshman year.”
Fagerness played in 40 games his freshman year, collecting a .309 batting average with eight doubles and three home runs. He scored 20 runs and knocked in 36 runs and ranked 52nd in the NWAC in batting average.
It was a great year for Big Bend as well as Fagerness that year. The Vikings finished 31-20 overall and 16-13 in the East Region to take third place and were able to get through the Super Regional round and earn a spot in the NWAC Championship tournament.
“It’s unbelievable. Last year was our first year in 15 years making it as a program. …The atmosphere is crazy. State football is a different thing, state baseball is, especially at the 2B level, is a great atmosphere,” Fagerness said. “You look at the NWAC tournament and you have four more teams there compared to the four that are in state baseball. Just the quality of baseball and the quality of attention from the fans is unreal. You have scouts lined up from the first base dugout to the third base dugout, just all over the place. Even in the Super Regionals, the playoffs just to get to the tournament, it’s just a different type of baseball that you really live for as a baseball player.”
Fagerness was voted team captain in his sophomore season with more than 75 percent of the votes.
He didn’t have quite as good a season in his sophomore campaign, appearing in 27 games while hitting .253 with a .325 on base percentage. He had two doubles and two triples and gathered eight RBI while scoring 10 runs.
Fagerness received his Associates Degree in business. He plans on switching to physical education and coaching to follow in the footsteps of his mom, and will pursue a career as an administrator and athletic director. He was recognized by the NWAC as being one of six Big Bend athletes to maintain at least a 3.25 grade point average during his two years.
Wanting to continue to play baseball, Fagerness was helped out by former Centralia College associate head baseball coach Cam Margaris, who is now a volunteer assistant for the Campbellsville baseball program.
“Cam gave me the connection but just the vibe. I went over there on a visit in the last week of May and just the program success, the culture that’s there, the school itself is in a town of 10,000 people so it’s a smaller school. The facilities are like a Division I NCAA school,” Fagerness said. “It just sold me, it felt like the right fit. …I wasn’t really looking to get out of the Pacific Northwest or anything, but there’s so many more schools over there in the eastern United States. Kentucky is beautiful.”
Campbellsville was the 2018 National Christian Colleges Association Champion and is an NAIA school. If Campbellsville has two good seasons with Fagerness, he’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest playing in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
Fagerness said he is eager to get started once the fall rolls around, but also wanted to thank the Napavine community for their support over the years as well as the coaches and community at Big Bend and Moses Lake.
“Thanks to all of the community in Napavine. I could not have chosen a better place to go for four years. The amount of support from the coaching staff, the school and the community was unreal,” Fagerness said. “I definitely could not have done all of this and had all the success I did there without all that. Same thing with Big Bend, Moses Lake … the coaching staff, the mentorship I got from there was top notch.”