NICEVILLE — A step up in competition hasn't slowed down former Crestview High School softball player Hannah Day.
Day, a 2012 CHS graduate, now displays her talents at Northwest Florida State College, where she is among the Raiders’ leaders in every offensive category. The team has a 32-10 record and tops the Panhandle Conference standings with a 4-2 mark.
‘Knocking the cover off the ball’
Day was leading the Raiders in runs batted in and was tied for the team lead in home runs going into last Thursday's doubleheader against Tallahassee Community College. She also was among the top three in batting average, runs scored, hits and slugging percentage.
Her .463 batting average is even more impressive, considering she has caught almost every game for Northwest Florida State, which means she's been behind the plate for both ends of a doubleheader.
"Hannah's probably one of the most dedicated players we have right now," Raider coach Jack Byerly said. "She's a good leader out there. She's aggressive and she hustles.
"And the way she's been hitting it lately — are you kidding me? She's been knocking the cover off the ball."
Day is just as happy to be at Northwest Florida State as Byerly is to have her.
"It's been a great experience," she said. "I love my team. I love playing with them. They are a great group of girls, and I know we can go far with them. They just have the heart — it's all there.”
Day said it helps that former Crestview teammate Shelby Gainer is on the team, along with former Fort Walton Beach High School rivals Jenn Phillips and Jaime Phillips.
Considering her options
Even after putting stellar numbers for Crestview in the tough District 2-6A, Day wasn't sure how well she would do when she took the step up in competition.
"I didn't know I'd come out and do this well my first year," she said. "I was a little nervous when he (Byerly) put me in the three spot (in the batting order). I'm getting a more comfortable there, and it feels good.
"I've never had the experience like catching conference doubleheaders before ... It's a learning process, and I do like my coach tells me — and I love it."
Day said the biggest adjustments have been in learning how to call the game as the catcher, being selective with the pitches she wants to hit and avoiding stress in tough situations.
Byerly said there's no great secret to Day's success.
"She works hard," he said. "She comes in there and takes extra hitting. She catches everybody in the bullpen.
"She just works. If you can find anybody that works harder than that — holy smokes."
Day said she would consider leaving Northwest Florida State at the end of the season if a beneficial softball opportunity at a four-year school was available.
However, right now, she's sees herself in a win-win situation.
"I'm just looking to see what's out there," Day said. "If I have to stay here another year and get myself out there even more, I will. But I love playing here and I can't wait to move on to the next level."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.