Callan Taylor came through with a clutch hit when her team needed one most and helped lift the University of West Florida softball team to a 4-3 victory over Valdosta State in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II South 1 Regional Friday afternoon in Pensacola.
With the score tied at 1-1 and two runners on in the fifth inning, the freshman out of Navarre smashed a double to center to clear the bases and put the Argonauts in front 3-1.
Taylor eventually scored and the Argos held off a late rally to punch a ticket to the regional final at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“A lot of things were running through my mind,” Taylor said. “We left a lot of base runners on early and it was time for a hit to finally go through. I’m glad it was mine. I saw the ball well on that one and cleared the bases.”
A win was far from assured even with a 4-1 lead. West Florida watched as the Blazers scored twice in the sixth to trim the deficit to 4-3. For a moment, it looked as if the game was going to be tied until Rachel Wright leaped up into the wall and snagged a ball to end the inning and preserve the lead.
The bases were loaded when Wright made the highlight-reel worthy grab. If the ball drops, at least one run scores, possibly two. The Argos held on to win their 42nd game of the season. They are 42-13 and ranked 10th nationally.
“We never make things easy,” West Florida head coach Melissa Paul said. “We decided to make things hard.”
And the catch by Wright?
“We practice that all of the time,” Paul said with a laugh. “We have confidence in our outfield and infield to make plays. Once in awhile we come up with something big. It was a great play by Rachel.”
Wright finished the day with three hits to pace the offense.
Meanwhile, Taylor is having a phenomenal freshman season, batting .283, and she is thrilled about moving on in the tourney as the Argos continue their quest for a national championship.
“It’s really exciting, especially since we are breaking records and going further than we have before,” Taylor said. “It’s exciting to see how far we can go.”
Read more about the West Florida softball team in the May 25 edition of the Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.