Alexis Ferguson nearly entered Brookville softball lore two years ago, when, as a freshman, she missed a go-ahead home run by mere inches in the Class 3 state championship game.

Then she went into a slump.

Her sophomore campaign was a disappointment. Ferguson missed five games with mononucleosis and hit a paltry .226.

But that’s all in her past. As a junior, Ferguson is crushing the ball. Her nine home runs, 33 RBIs and .431 batting average lead Brookville.

She’s part of a scary top half of the Brookville order that includes leadoff hitter Kylie Stark (.422 average) and pitcher Madison Harris (.353 average).

For Ferguson, it’s a dramatic turn, and Brookville (18-3) is better because of it.

“It all comes down to putting in work,” the junior said this week after Brookville wrapped practice. “Putting in the time, working when I don’t want to work.”

Brookville is the No. 1 seed in the Seminole District Tournament, which continues with the semifinal round Monday. BHS will host either fourth-seeded Liberty or No. 5 Liberty Christian.

The Bees also have captured the top seed for the upcoming Region 3C Tournament. Their success is rooted in strong pitching (Harris is 15-2 with a 0.68 ERA and 165 strikeouts) and timely hitting.

That’s not to say BHS hasn’t struggled at the plate. There have been games when the Bees have struck out 13 or 14 times. But opposing pitchers can’t ignore the three big hitters or Liz Pennington, who is hitting .343 to help the bottom half of the order.

Ferguson, who always has displayed a durable glove in center field, is enjoying her breakout season at the plate.

After the lackluster sophomore season, she began working with a hitting coach. She’s more disciplined and is patient in her approach.

Brookville coach Gary Ferguson (not related to Alexis) is excited about Alexis’ future. The cleanup hitter has verbally committed to Division I Tennessee State University.

College recruiters, the coach added, have been attracted to Alexis’ arm strength, size and power.

“I think her focus is a little better this year than it was last year,” Gary Ferguson said. “That, and knowing she’s got to get better. She’s committed, and I think that may have helped her know where she needs to be, and in order to get there, she’s got to work ka little harder.”

The coach drills a lesson into his players’ minds: Work as hard as you can because players all over the country are doing the same thing. They’re working, he says, “to be just like you or better than you.”

In 2017, Alexis Ferguson’s blast in the top of the 10th inning of the state championship game against Warhill looked destined for the trees beyond center. It would have given the Bees a 1-0 lead and likely their third state title in four years.

Instead, it bounced off the yellow lining at the top of the fence for a double. Brookville lost 1-0 in an epic 18-inning battle in Salem that lasted 4½.

Two years later, Ferguson is poised to lead the Bees deep once again.

“I’m 100% positive,” she said, “that we’re going to states.”

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Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.

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