Alex Day got her first taste of playing at the collegiate level last year, and knew she could do better.

The 2015 Hilliard Bradley High School graduate batted only .156 in 32 at-bats as a freshman with the Ohio University softball team in 2016, but more than doubled her batting average in her second season to help lead the Bobcats to a record season.

This spring, Day batted .318 and led the Bobcats in at-bats (198), hits (63), runs scored (43) and hit-by-pitch (6). The third baseman also had 12 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 26 RBI, 16 walks and four stolen bases while starting all 60 games.

The Bobcats finished 42-18 overall to set the program record for wins in a season, topping the previous mark of 39 set in 1995. They also set the program record for winning percentage (.700) for a season in which a minimum of 30 games were played.

"I think I just got a lot more serious about (softball) and my drive to get better was improved," Day said when asked about her improved play as a sophomore. "I worked a lot harder going into my sophomore year, and I think that paid off."

The Bobcats won the Mid-American Conference-East Division at 17-7 but had to settle for being runners-up in the MAC tournament after losing to Kent State 1-0 and 3-0 in the championship games.

Day, who bats left-handed and throws with her right hand, was named second-team all-MAC.

That honor came as no surprise to coach Jodi Hermanek, who said Day reached the next level through hard work.

"Alex is a blue-collar worker," Hermanek said. "She doesn't want to be outworked and she definitely isn't afraid of taking on a challenge.

"Alex is the kind of kid who thrives on trying to beat out or surpass her teammates. She wants to be the best fielder in the field and the best hitter in the box."

Bradley coach Kevin Moody remembers a slightly built slap-hitter walking onto the diamond as a freshman in 2012.

"When Alex started as a freshman for us, she had great desire," Moody said. "She was a good softball player for us and also was a good soccer player and she had the determination to work to be the best in both sports.

"Alex first started dabbling in slapping and bunting the ball from the left side, but she is a much different player now. She even hit a couple of homers this year. She has come a long way from her days as a tiny freshman for us."

Day not only changed her style of play, but also her attitude. College softball begins with a fall season and continues with winter workouts to prepare for the spring season. The rigors of the lengthy season can take its toll.

"The mental aspect of the game means so much," said Day, an exercise physiology major. "We have games in the fall and start (the spring season) in mid-February and finish in May. It can be both mentally and physically draining.

"I think much of the game is mental, especially if you go into a slump. When you go into a slump, everything can be feeling great and something little goes wrong. You have to believe in yourself and all of the hard work that you have put in. You have to be strong and mentally tough, but have fun as well. Softball is a big part of my life, but it's not big enough to get upset about. You have to find positives."

Hermanek expects Day to find even more positives as her career continues for the Bobcats.

"Alex needs more innings," Hermanek said. "When she got to play in her freshman season, it was mostly in practice and her at-bats were mostly practice at-bats.

"As a sophomore, the more innings she got, the better she was. She has gotten stronger and her confidence has grown a lot. She started to believe in herself and really worked hard on being able to sustain that confidence level."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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