When Alexis Benford walked to the plate for her first at-bat against Olentangy on April 5, she carried more than the bat with her.

When Alexis Benford walked to the plate for her first at-bat against Olentangy on April 5, she carried more than the bat with her.

She also carried the memory of her mother, Sue, who had passed away from breast cancer on April 6 of last year.

As Benford dug into the batter's box, the one-year anniversary of her mother's passing was on her mind.

"In life there are no bad experiences, just lessons learned," she said, echoing her mother's words. "That quote seriously is so clich, but it changed my life forever. I don't have any regrets anymore. My whole perspective on life has changed."

It was a little more than a year ago when Alexis woke up to find a note her stepfather had slipped under her door during the night. She picked it up and read it. It said her mother was having trouble breathing during the night and had been admitted to a hospital for further testing.

Three weeks earlier, Sue Benford had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.

The day Sue Benford was admitted to the hospital, her doctor said the cancer was advancing and gave her six months to live. Alexis paid little attention to the prognosis. After all, how many times are doctors wrong when it comes to timetables?

"Sometimes when people are told they have six months, they end up living 10 years," Alexis said. "I told myself I'm not going to start getting worried about this."

Later that day, April 2, the Irish had a home game against Central Crossing. Alexis received a call from her father, Greg, just before the game was about to start. He told her that the doctors were wrong about the timetable. It wasn't going to be six months. It was more likely to be two days.

Alexis left for the hospital, but she wouldn't stay away from her team for long.

"The one thing I learned is people don't know what they're capable of until they go through something," she said.

Sue Benford had prepared her daughter. She was a spiritual woman and an expert on holistic medicine who held advanced degrees in health and history. She wrote a book called "Strong Woman: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul." The message in that book gave Alexis the strength to move forward.

She shocked her teammates by retuning to play against Westerville North two days after her mother's death.

"She like came back to school the next day and I'm like, 'What are you doing here?'" said teammate Mackenzie Dyson, who has known Alexis since the two were in kindergarten together.

"I mean, it was amazing. She just wanted to get back out on the field. She wanted to keep her mind off of things."

Scioto was going to play a game to benefit breast cancer later this season, but April 5 ended up being the right date. April 6 not only marked the anniversary of Sue Benford's passing, but it also was the birth date of coach Greg Menssen's mother, who died last October from pancreatic cancer.

"Watching the way she deals with it and chooses to celebrate her mom's life is really an inspiration for anyone that has to go through that," Menssen said.

"I'm 45 years old and it was difficult to deal with, and still is. Daily, you're reminded of something that tells you they're not there anymore. I can't imagine going through it at 16."

There's a lot out there to remind Alexis of her mother. In addition to the book Sue Benford wrote, her name appears all over the Internet in news stories, book reviews and other random Web sites. Sue Benford also invented a diaper rash salve called Baby Bottom Better. She also was the head of two non-profit organizations.

Alexis and her sister, Erika, a student at Ohio State, both have a tattoo of a dove to symbolize their mother's spirit and encapsulate her message of strength.

"No matter who you are, you can relate to anybody," Alexis said. "She went through so much, but she didn't want to worry anybody. You think (when something bad happens) you can't go through it, but the reality is, life goes on. It becomes old news for other people. People forget. People don't realize you're still hurting. You can't just sulk because people are just going to be annoyed by you. There are times where you just need to be strong. That is something she taught me."

April 5 was one of those times, as Alexis gave a pre-game speech to the fans. Then, during the game, she had an RBI double, helping Scioto to a 2-1 win. The Irish were 2-12 in the OCC-Cardinal Division last year, but after the win over Olentangy, they were unbeaten in the league.

Some would say Alexis was unbeaten in life.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Scioto softball team:

*April 12 - Lost to Westerville Central 3-1

*April 13 - Lost to Westerville South 5-2

*April 14 - Lost to Olentangy Liberty 3-2

April 15 - Lost Grove City 7-1

April 17 - Lost to Hilliard Darby 6-0

*April 19 - Lost to Marysville 6-0

*April 20 - Defeated Westerville North 9-8

*April 21 - Def. Olentangy 8-1

April 22 - Def. Dublin Jerome 6-0

*Last Friday - Lost to Westerville South 6-0

Last Saturday - Def. North Ridgeville 4-3; lost to Caledonia River Valley 4-1

*Last Wednesday - Played Westerville Central

Today - Home vs. Olentangy Orange

*Friday - Home vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Monday - At Dublin Jerome

*Tuesday - At Westerville North

*Wednesday - Home vs. Marysville

Of note: The Irish were 7-11 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Cardinal game