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Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014

Taylor ready to light up diamond in Harrison

Thursday, May 28, 2009

There's an old saying in sports that goes something like this: It's not how you start, but rather how you finish, that really matters.

Take for example the Izard County Lady Cougars' softball team this past spring.

The Lady Cougars got off to a shaky start and went just 4-6 during the season's opening month of March.

However, it didn't take Izard County long to reverse those numbers.

The Lady Cougars lost only twice in April, while racking up eight victories.

That hot streak also carried over into the post-season and the Lady Cougars won yet another conference championship and district tournament title, along with another trip to the state tournament.

That's called coming together at the right time.

And a big chunk of Izard County's success this year, and really for the past four years, rode on the right arm of starting pitcher Sarah Taylor.

Now, after over-powering hitters at the high-school level for the past four years, Taylor gets the opportunity to try her hand at college softball.

She signed a letter of intent May 19 to play at North Arkansas College in Harrison beginning next fall.

Considering the amount of firepower that Izard County lost from last year, including All-State and All-Star MVP catcher Trace Grinnell, and with just two experienced seniors on this year's roster, it's no wonder that it took the Lady Cougars a while to find their groove this season.

"We did lose quite a bit due to graduation last year," said Lady Cougar Head Coach Matt Orf. "But Sarah, along with my other senior, Brittany Shrable, pretty much led this team this year. Offensively, defensively and emotionally. They took a strong hold of this team and held it all together. We really turned it around and won 10 of our last 13 ballgames and those two seniors played a key role in that."

But playing a key role for the Lady Cougars is nothing new to Taylor. It's something she's been doing since she was a freshman.

As a ninth-grader, Taylor racked up 140 strikeouts. During her sophomore season in the circle, she fanned 226 opposing hitters. Over the course of her junior year, she notched 321 Ks. And during her just-completed senior campaign, Taylor struck out 222.

That's a total of 909 strikeouts. Pretty impressive numbers.

But according to Orf, that just scratches the surface of Taylor's talents on the softball diamond.

"Everybody notices Sarah for her pitching, and they should. But last year, Trace was our RBI leader and that's because Sarah was on base in front of her," he said. "So last year, Sarah scored a lot of runs, but didn't have a lot of RBIs. Then this year, I led her off because I felt like she was our best hitter. And again, she didn't get a whole lot of RBI opportunities, but she scored a bunch of runs for us. Sarah did a good job of running the bases -- she's smart on the base path -- and the girls behind her put the ball in play and got her in."

Taylor's importance also carried over to the way she fielded her position, too.

"Defensively, she was big for us, also. Sarah's a player that we built this team around," Orf said. "When Trace graduated, we built our defense around Sarah this year. And she was at the center of our defense this year."

That's what it takes to play college softball -- a good all-around game. And Orf said he thinks Taylor is well equipped for the college game.

"I think she'll be an excellent player. A good fit for them in Harrison," he said. "I think she'll have a great opportunity there. Coach (Seychelle) Mahoney has a good program. I think that Sarah will have a chance to learn some new stuff and take full advantage of the opportunity."



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