Alexis Mack’s penultimate hit of the 2020 season was a bases-loaded triple, quite the oddity for a speedy slapper. Those three runs put Arkansas away for good in an 8-1 win that clinched the series.

As Mack saw it, that weekend was the turning point. Alabama was a preseason No. 1 team that started its season 1-3 and played its first home game with an underwhelming 4-5 record. After that game, UA was 14-8 and climbing up the rankings once again.

Having that potential ripped from her hands didn’t sit right. She couldn’t leave her softball playing days behind her that way.

“I’ve definitely had to make tough decisions throughout my softball career — given that I’ve transferred twice — very gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, thought-out decisions that were really difficult,” Mack said. “This was not really a decision for me. There was no question, there was nothing to think about. It was a no-brainer.

“As soon as the news came out that the season was cancelled, my first thought was if we do get eligibility back, which I was praying so hard for, I’m definitely playing. No question.”

Mack was a wildly productive leadoff hitter and base stealer in what was supposed to be her lone season as a player at UA, coming in as a grad transfer from Oregon. But her postgraduate plans worked in her favor: originally, she would’ve completed her two-year master’s program in advertising and public relations (with a concentration in sports media) while playing one season and coaching one as a graduate assistant. Now, she’ll play both, hoping to recapture the magic she thought was brewing in 2020.

“We were only going to go up from there, and that was hard for all of us on a team level,” Mack said.

UA hopes she recaptures her individual magic: when the season ended, she was hitting .418 with an on-base percentage of .513 and was successful on 12 of her 14 stolen base attempts. But Mack has been here before.

In 2018, her final season as an Oregon Duck, she was second on the team with a .369 batting average and led the team with 24 stolen bases. Off that strong season, she chose to sit out the 2019 season to transfer elsewhere for a final year of eligibility. This time is even more challenging, have gone through a missed season once just to have the end reward taken away far too early.

As she points out, she has experience. She can lean on it to prepare for one more season.

“The mindset had to change a little bit,” Mack said. “I had just gone through a half year of sitting out, taking time to train and be as ready as I possibly could. Mentally, it’s a difficult thing to grapple with because I just did this. How long can you be on your last lap and give it all?

“At the end of the day, I have so much fire and so much love for this team and program, it was an easy thing for me to do. That fire is still very much there.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson

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