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Softball  . 

Haley Simpson: The Comeback Kid

by Brad Muller

Haley Simpson has been knocked down due to injuries several times in her career, but the fifth-year senior outfielder keeps coming back. Simpson missed the last two seasons with the Gamecocks after having hip surgery in December of 2020, forcing her to sit out that spring, and then she tore her left ACL a week before opening day last February. It was the second time she had ACL surgery after tearing the ligament in her right leg in high school.

“It was tough, but I definitely feel blessed because I had May Cordero, our athletic trainer, doing my rehabs, and she has been wonderful,” said Simpson, who earned her degree in visual communications in December and is now working on a master’s in Journalism and Mass Communications.

“The physical side of it wasn’t as bad. I’ve been through an ACL rehab before, and I came back from hip surgery feeling great. It was more the mental side of it and having to deal with back-to-back injuries.

“With the ACL injury, I felt like the rug just got ripped out from under me. I feel like I have something to prove. I’ve been injured for two years now, and before that I got gipped on the COVID year. I feel like I have something to prove, and I want to get out there and show everyone how hard I’ve worked. I also have incredible teammates who have kept me going and haven’t let me get my head down.”

Simpson hit. 264 as a freshman in 49 games with four stolen bases, and in her sophomore COVID-shortened campaign of 2020 she led the Gamecocks with a .353 average in 21 games with seven stolen bases and became the first Gamecock since 2007 to hit two triples in a game when she tallied a pair against Virginia Tech.

“I think the coaches want to wrap me in bubble wrap until opening day, and I don’t blame them.”
Haley Simpson  . 
Outfielder Haley Simpson

Getting over any season-ending injury is tough, not just physically, but mentally, and Simpson credits the mental health services offered through South Carolina Athletics for helping her get through it.

“I’ve been seeing Dr. (Rhea) Merck (a licensed clinical psychologist) from the Mental Health Performance Team weekly, and we talk about it a lot,” Simpson said. “It has been the best thing for me. I can’t even tell you how much she has helped me.”

Simpson has been playing sports since she was four years old and lettered in softball, basketball, track, and swimming at North Forsyth High School in Georgia. Having missed two straight seasons at South Carolina, Simpson said there were times she struggled with the idea of making a comeback.

“With the hip, I couldn’t walk for ten weeks, and with the ACL I couldn’t walk for another eight,” Simpson said. “It was miserable. I definitely had those days where rehab hurt a little bit more, or I wanted to do more and wasn’t allowed. I definitely had those moments of doubt where I questioned whether it was worth it. I had plenty of people around me so that when I got into my little depression box, they would always pull me out of it and let me know that’s not what I wanted, and that I loved softball and wanted to come back.”

Now that she is healthy (knock on wood), Simpson is confident that her game is better than ever.

“My game has not changed at all,” Simpson said. “If anything, I think I’ve gained a little more power. So, I may hit away a little more than slap this year, but slapping is still in my toolbox. I’m still all over the outfield. I love defense!”

Simpson also likes to surf in her spare time but admits she won’t be doing anything risky before the start of this season.

“I think the coaches want to wrap me in bubble wrap until opening day, and I don’t blame them,” Simpson said. “The team just calls me mom or grandma because I’m so old now. I’m feeling wonderful. I just want to be out there with my teammates.

“First and foremost, I want to make it to opening day. It’s going to feel like a dream, and I’m just so blessed to be back out there with my girls. We want to win each series. We want to make it back to the postseason. I can’t wait.”

Haley Simpson Steps Toward Ball