KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When Tennessee senior Haley Bearden is always a threat when she steps to the plate.

"Whenever the pitcher releases the ball and it's on its way to me, normally, you're already like, oh yeah, this is a good one to hit," said Bearden.

"The connection of the bat and the ball, it just feels so effortless. Running around the bases, I just can't wait to get back to my teammates.

Bearden leads the Lady Vols in home runs with 14 in the regular season. It wasn't always so effortless for the Clarksville native. Injuries slowed her down early. Her freshman, sophomore and junior season Bearden homered only once.

"They were pretty tough sometimes, but the thing that got me through it  was just my teammates, we have a bond, all of us and we help each other get through the day everyday and we put a smile on each other's face and help us keep going."

For the first time in a long time, Bearden feels just like she did when she was a little kid, having fun playing the game.

"I feel like I just wanted to leave softball the way I found it, I wanted to enjoy every second of it, never dwell on anything, be negative, I just wanted to be positive," said Bearden

"I think like most people she's finally found her way," said co-head coach Ralph Weekly," she's playing free and she's been a big boost to us this year."

So with only a postseason left between Bearden and the end of her time wearing Orange and White, she's playing like a kid again, living out her dreams from way back when.

"When i was younger it was the only thing I wanted to do, I had all my sights set on that, so It's just a really big accomplishment and I'm just so glad I was given the opportunity by Ralph and Karen to come here."