For Penn softball junior star pitcher Alexis Borden, the middle of five children, the sport has been a family affair.
“I grew up on softball — I’ve been playing since I was five or six,” she said.
Two of her aunts earned national titles playing softball for UCLA and each of Borden’s four siblings tried out the sport.
“I’m the only one that stuck with it,” she said. “I didn’t really know it would turn into a college experience.”
So far, the pitcher’s college experience has been anything but ordinary. After just two full seasons with the Quakers, Borden has pitched the only two no-hitters in Penn history and holds the program records for career strikeouts and victories, with 424 and 43, respectively.
Despite her talent on the pitching mound, Borden maintains a silly side. Known as “AC” to her teammates, Borden describes herself as the team’s “bow person.” Ever since her freshman year, Borden has been making customized hair ribbons for her teammates for each game.
“I haven’t made any bows since Florida,” she explained with a laugh. “I’ve been busy.”
Even though her hair was absent of a ribbon during Sunday’s doubleheader against St. Joe’s, she managed to make a statement with her headwear. To keep warm in the 40-degree weather, she donned a rainbow knitted bear hat, complete with floppy ears that wiggled in the brisk wind.
“My grandma bought it,” Borden said with a proud laugh. “The coach doesn’t like it though because she doesn’t think I’m being serious, so I had to keep the ears covered all day.”
Even after earning accolade upon accolade, Borden remains grounded.
“There’s always a new day, and you can’t look at things in a negative light,” she said. Borden says that staying positive was the biggest lesson she learned from last year’s NCAA Tournament experience.
The Red and Blue had a tumultuous postseason experience in 2013. In their first game at College Station, the Quakers fell to Texas A&M, 12-0.
“I got beat up pretty badly,” she recalled. “But you just have to learn to let things go.”
The next day the Quakers came back and almost pulled off a victory over Arizona, before falling 3-2, a feat Borden considers “crazy.” In the game against the Wildcats, Borden pitched with ferocity, allowing only two runs and issuing no walks.
This season, though, Borden knows that her role on the team has changed.
“Now that the team is so young, it is even more important for the people that were sophomores last year to play more of a leader role,” she said.
Borden is patient, knowing that it will take time to develop the same chemistry as the 2013 squad. On the diamond she misses the backup from her biggest role models, shortstop Steph Caso C’13 and second-baseman Sam Erosa C’13. “I always felt so comfortable out on the field with them,” Borden said. “[The freshmen] are all so raw and so athletic. Right now it doesn’t seem like we’re too good, but we are talented.
“It’ll get there.”
In the meantime, the team is looking ahead to the Ivy League season, which opens with a doubleheader against Yale at Penn Park on Friday. Borden is taking an unorthodox approach to preparing for Friday’s game.
“For Ivy League games I write a quote on a piece of tape and wrap it around my hand.... It’s a special thing,” she said.
When asked what the quote is for the Yale games, Borden admitted, “I don’t know yet.
“But I have a list going.”