SALEM, Va. - Nicole Hagenah can smile these days as she talks about the last time she came to the Moyer Complex for the NCAA Division II national tournament, as a freshman third baseman three years ago.
"It's totally different now," said the LIU Post senior, who plays shortstop for the 50-9 Pioneers. "I came in my freshman year, I didn't know what to expect. But now I know what it's like. I know the field. I know what's going on, and I try to share that with the younger girls."
Back in 2011, no one was expecting Hagenah to have the kind of national tournament that she did. She spent much of the regular season and postseason doing everything so well that she was voted East Coast Conference rookie of the year and was a first-team all-American.
In the five NCAA regional and super regional games the Pioneers played to reach the final tournament, she hit .500 with three doubles and two home runs. In Post's quick two-and-out appearance at nationals, nothing went right for Hagenah. She was hitless in six at-bats and struck out five times as the Pioneers were shut out twice and eliminated.
"She was coming off a very good regular season and postseason," said LIU Post coach Jamie Apicella, whose team takes on top-ranked West Texas A&M (56-7) at 2:30 p.m. today in the tournament opener for both teams. "But when she got here, it was a different level of competition. It could have been fatigue -- mentally or physically. She didn't have a great performance, but I think it was a great experience for her to have."
Hagenah said she learned long ago that worrying too much about what didn't go right in the past is wasted time. Her body of work proves she has moved on gracefully. As a sophomore and junior, Hagenah earned additional conference, region and national honors as Post reached the Division II subregional tournament in both of those seasons.
She followed that up with a dynamite 2014 postseason, where she has hit .457 with six home runs and three doubles.