A business analyst by day, New Albany softball coach Aaron Hall is used to and enjoys crunching numbers.
Two of junior catcher and outfielder Sophia Halliday's statistics that might be less prominent than batting average, home runs and RBI support Hall's estimation of why Halliday is critical to the Eagles' fortunes.
She struck out only four times as a sophomore and reached on an error 11 times.
"I look at the data," Hall said. "People might wonder why I'd care about how many times a player reaches on an error, but this is why: Sophia hits the snot out of the ball. Even last year, hitting .425, she reached on an error 11 times and I can tell you that 95 percent of the time, she hit the crap out of the ball and the fielder couldn't field it because she hit it so hard. That's what she brings every day."
After a strong freshman season in which she batted .413 with 26 hits and 22 RBI, Halliday followed that up last year by leading the Eagles in two-out RBI (10), ranking third in extra-base hits (9) and posting a 1.04 OPS.
According to Hall, Halliday was third on the team in hard-hit balls with 38.
New Albany went 14-12 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital Division last season, and Halliday was named second-team all-league for the second year in a row.
"I was very happy with my season. I was proud of myself," Halliday said. "I take this game really seriously. My school and travel coaches teach the same thing: you don't want to (strike out) looking and you have to have a strong work ethic. They push me to perform my best."
Halliday was going to split time between catching, alternating with promising freshman Ashley Apple, and center field this season after playing in left last year. Hall put Halliday in left field because opposing right-handed hitters tended to pull the ball, and he expected to have her hit between third and fifth in the lineup before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"She might not have played out of her comfort zone last year, but she wasn't in her strongest position. Still, she was one of the best defensive players in the league at any position," Hall said. "A lot of things make kids stand out -- energy, effort and, obviously, performance -- and she is one of those kids that every single day, you don't have to rattle her cage to get her going."
Halliday said she focused on catching drills during the offseason, including increasing her speed in throwing out baserunners from her knees.
Halliday hopes to play in college but has not made a decision.
One school close to her heart is Denison, where her father is in the Varsity D Association Hall of Fame for his track and field accomplishments. Scott Halliday was a part of two All-American relay teams and won seven North Coast Athletic Conference individual or relay championships from 1984-87.
"That's been a top choice for a really long time," Sophia Halliday said. "I've been on campus about a million times in my life. It's fun to see my dad's memories, experience those with him and maybe make some of my own in the future."