NCAA Softball: Apr 28 Hillcats at Eagles

Danelle Day homers to left field against Oklahoma Christian University on April 28, 2018.

When Danelle Day came to Claremore from Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017, Rogers State wasn’t much known for its softball program.

The Hillcats saw success early in its history with eight-consecutive winning seasons from 2006 to 2013, but there was a massive drop-off the ensuing three years. During that time, RSU accumulated a record of 49-101.

Yet, first-year coach Andrea Vaughan managed to attract recruits like Day to College Hill and the Diamond Sports Complex.

Day recently shared her thoughts on the program’s continued growth under Vaughan during a segment of “Hillcat Student-Athlete Vantage Point”.

“Vaughn, it was her first year as head coach, and she told me coming in, ‘I’m going to have a winning program, and I’m going to have a program that’s going to be ranked one day,’” Day said.

Developing a winning culture came surprisingly easy for Vaughn.

The Hillcats improved from only 17 wins in 2016 to 28 wins in 2017, and Day had a lot to do with that.

She totaled 21 starts in 31 appearance and hit .258 with three home runs, four doubles and 14 RBIs. All three homers came in the last month of the season, during which she logged 14 of her 21 starts.

Day also slugged .455 with a .351 on-base percentage and was perfect in the field with 31 putouts and four assists.

Day and RSU continued building momentum after that 28-24 season, tallying 72 wins the next two years accompanied by a Heartland Conference Tournament championship in 2018.

Then in 2020, Vaughn’s prophecy of leading a ranked program came to fruition.

The Hillcats debuted in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association NCAA Division II Softball National Top 25 at No. 22 after starting the season 12-2, and they climbed as high at 11th before finishing at No. 17 with a 21-8 record after the remainder of the season was canceled amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Whenever the polls came out this year and we were ranked No. 11, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Day said. “We were about to go out and practice, and Vaughn said, ‘I don’t know if you guys have seen the polls, but we’re ranked No. 11 in the nation.’ We took it humbly, but we were never satisfied with anything.”

Not including the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Tournament and other postseason action, 24 regular season games remained on the slate. RSU was on pace to enter the postseason with 38 wins had it been allowed to continue.

Day had 29 hits in 94 at-bats with 30 RBIs before the season was called, including two home runs, two triples and eight doubles. She also scored 22 runs.

Furthermore, Day had an on-base percentage of .402 and 47 bases total for a .500 slugging percentage.

The 5-foot-7 senior finished the year with an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .902 and managed 118 putouts with two assists for a perfect fielding percentage.

Although that stellar 2020 season was supposed to be her last with the Hillcats, Day will be back in 2021 after the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all spring-sport athletes.

Fellow senior Abigail Taylor will be returning as well.

“My athletes know me, and they know I’ll go to the end of the earth to help them,” Vaughan told the Progress in March. “If they want to come back, I want to do everything I can to make that possible for them.”

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