By Lenny Sementi
In softball and baseball when a batter has two strikes you repeatedly hear ‘give-em the dark one’ echo out of the dugout and that’s exactly what Warrior alum Morgan Day was doing at a high rate this spring before her season was abruptly suspended. The Illinois State Redbird quickly turned out the lights on batters this season fanning 123 total ranking her twelfth in the nation at the NCAA Division One level. The Birds pre-conference schedule was one of the toughest in the country, boasting seven squads ranked in the top 25, including two outings against the fourth ranked Lady Tigers of LSU.
The Warrior All-Starter and career strikeout leader at Tuscola owned a 7-5 mark this spring and was at the top in almost every pitching category for ISU boasting a 2.76 ERA in twelve starts and sixteen appearances while limiting opposing teams to a .217 batting average. She opened the year with a big win over a very good University of South Florida team in Tampa striking out twelve, firing at least one ball at 69 mph from 43-feet. That’s an equivalent to a 100 mph heater in the major leagues allowing hitters just less than .4 seconds to decide if it’s a ball or a strike and then guess where it is going up, down in or out. Day sat down twelve two more times, and ten twice as well but it was an eighteen strikeout outing on the 28 of February against Indiana-University and Purdue-University of Indiana that turned some heads around the country. She allowed just two base runners a lone hit and a walk while collecting the victory.
“I am throwing a variety of pitches now drop, rise, curve, change, and an offspeed drop ball,” stated Day. “I was feeling great about the spring before its cancellation – we were off to a great start considering our tough preseason schedule and we were above .500 heading into our conference schedule.”
The eighteen strikeouts tied the Redbirds all time mark in a single game and was on pace to break both the season strikeout record and the career mark before the stoppage. She was taking care of 10.9 batters a game on her own by average ranking her one spot out of the top ten nationally in eleventh overall. The speed baller struck out 94 as a true freshman, 156 as a sophomore (fifth all time at ISU in a season) and 123 this year giving her 373 strikeouts in her career. That total lands her just outside the top five in program history with at least one and maybe two years left in her career due to the NCAA awarding a redshirt year to all spring sport athletes.
“I am unsure about the next couple of years regarding my collegiate athletic career, but I am relieved and very excited to at least have the option to return to the field if I choose to do so,” the hurler exclaimed. “This is an unfortunate situation, but all athletes across the nation are going through this together, which helps me to keep things in perspective.”
Her 25 starts, 39 appearances and a win over nationally ranked Indiana a season ago earned the big time rise-baller All Missouri Valley Conference second team honors. She also garnered MVC player of the week accolades the first week in March of 2019 and became the first ISU pitcher to sit down ten or more since 2015 striking out eleven and twelve against Valparaiso in back to back games in early May.
As a freshman the righty took home the MVC Newcomer of the Week award, collected MVC All-Tournament honors, and appeared in a team-best 31 games including starts against two of the top teams in the nation in LSU and Florida.
“One positive I can take from this time off is that I have a bit of time to not only let my body rest and heal when necessary, but also to workout on my own,” she commented. “This is a great time to fine-tune my mechanics and fix any issues that may have appeared in the games that we did play so I will be better prepared when games start up again.”
Having coached Morgan for four seasons I know as much as anyone about the blood sweat and tears she has poured into her craft. I have never had an athlete work harder in the weight room, at times to the dismay of others, and she never blinked an eye, responding “I can do better coach.” Once during our winter workouts after Morgan ripped off fifteen perfect pull-ups, another athlete commented that she was like a boy and I simply told Mo that’s definitely a compliment because the only ones in this school that were working anywhere near as hard as her were some of the football players. Her father Scott Day’s battered shins are another testament to the amount of time she put in year round throwing balls and perfecting pitches while he sat on a bucket.