2021 Patriot League Softball Defender of the Year, 2021 Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and the first college athlete to sign a NIL deal with a professional sports team are only some of the accomplishments that Lehigh senior softball star Carley Barjaktarovich has accomplished throughout her four years.
While Barjaktarovich has made her mark on the Lehigh softball program, she wasn’t always highly recruited coming out of Richmond, Michigan.
“I had quite a few schools that wouldn’t even watch me play,” she said. “They would simply watch my film or see my height and weight and say, ‘no, she’s not big enough to come.’ So that for me was really frustrating throughout the process.”
Instead of giving up on her dream of playing college softball, she switched travel teams in her junior year of high school, which gave her more exposure since she was playing in bigger tournaments.
It was then on her new travel team that a certain coach had seen Barjaktarovich’s potential.
Lehigh had watched one of her tournaments, but they didn’t tell her they were watching her. Once she got home, she saw she had a missed call from Coach Fran Troyan.
“I picked up the voicemail and called him back and talked to him,” she said. “I was like Lehigh, why does that sound familiar? But it turns out, about a month prior, the recruiting coordinator had reached out to me with a list of schools that would be a good fit, and Lehigh was on it. I kind of brushed it off a month prior, but it came back full-circle.”
Once she got to visit, it felt like home to her.
Troyan said he has a soft spot for undersized people because he was considered an undersized athlete as well.
“I saw a tremendous amount of heart and passion with the way she approached the game of softball, and I knew that it could translate to success here at Lehigh. We felt like she had the intangibles that would allow her to be a great athlete here, and we were right.”
They were right indeed.
As a freshman, Barjaktarovich was just one of three Lehigh players to start all 55 games. She’s continued her success, starting every single game she’s played in for the Mountain Hawks.
Part of that is due to her never taking a day off, Troyan said.
“She not only does the right things, but she does the right things for the right reasons. She holds herself to an incredibly high standard, and she just doesn’t deviate from that. It’s a combination of her being gifted as an athlete and her work ethic that makes her a little bit different. We’ve had a lot of players that have been gifted with just an OK work ethic, and we’ve had a lot of people with great work ethic but not quite as gifted as Carley as a combination of both that separates her from a lot of the others.”
Not only does her head coach see how hard she works, but so do her teammates.
“She’s a lead by example person and doesn’t take any reps off,” said senior infielder Karsen O’Rourke. “She does a lot of extra work behind the scenes, and honestly, she probably loves softball the most out of us.”
O’Rourke said having Barjaktarovich in the infield with her is nice as she hasn’t ever turned in this many double plays before this season.
The two work in tandem. O’Rourke has a torn labrum right now but recalled how they still balance off of each other to make it work.
“I can’t throw very hard, so basically me and her were going to turn a double play,” she said. “Traditionally, I was really close to second base. I got the ball and I could have just stepped on it and turned and threw it to first, but I knew I would have a really weak throw, so Carley was just really close, so I stepped on second base and put the ball in her glove and was like “you do it.’ So, she had to throw it to first, but we ended up turning into a double play.”
Barjaktarovich committing plays like that is just one of the many reasons she was named the Patriot League Defender of the Year last year. She also led the Patriot League in batting average (.471 percent), most hits (57) and stolen bases(19).
Not only is Barjaktarovich a leader on the field, but off as well.
July 1, 2021, Name, Image and Likeness was passed, allowing NCAA athletes to officially make money off of their names. This means they could be promoted by teams and sign sponsorship deals.
Barjaktarovich was the first athlete in the NCAA to sign a deal with a pro team, inking her name with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
She was working full-time in their ticketing office as a ticket sales intern at the time. Once the law got passed, the vice president of the company at the time looked at her and said, So, you can make money now. Did you see the law? I kind of chuckled at him and laughed and said “Yeah, do you got any ideas for me? And he said, yeah I got something and walked out of the office.”
Originally, she thought nothing of it, but about a week later, he walked back into the office and handed her a sheet of paper. And I was like, “oh, you weren’t joking last week. You were serious.”
From there, she talked with him, and it all came to life.
While Barjaktarovich has accomplished a lot, she is still searching for one more thing: A Patriot League Championship.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Barjaktarovich said.
Behind Barjaktarovich is her incredible support system in her family.
“I love them to death,” she said. “They mean the world to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without every one of them, and that also goes for the staff here at Lehigh. My experience here has been so great mostly because of the people here and how they make it feel like home.”