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Softball: Taylor, Shults add to hefty resumes

Valencia pitching legend selected to USA Softball Women's National Team; Hart grad is alternate

Posted: June 24, 2011 7:19 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2011 7:19 p.m.
 

Valencia High graduate Jordan Taylor and Hart High graduate Jessica Shults were both National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Americans, and they both saw their seasons end earlier than they would have liked.

For Taylor, a missed trip to the College World Series also signaled the end of her collegiate career.
The rest of her career is just starting, though.

Taylor is one of 18 players to make the USA Softball Women's National Team, and Shults was named the alternate, USA Softball and the Amateur Softball Association announced this month.

Both players received invitations to a tryout with the national team that was held last week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.

A total of 21 players were invited from across the country.

"Things didn't end how I wanted them to at Michigan, but you kind of have to move on," said Taylor, whose team didn't make it out of its regional. "I'm really excited to wear red, white and blue and play for my country. Not many people get that honor. It's really an amazing that I get the opportunity to play."

She'll also have the opportunity to play in Kissimmee, Fla. for the USSSA Pride of four-team league, National Pro Fastpitch.

"I'll also be playing in red, white and blue, but that's not quite the same," Taylor joked.

The 2007 Valencia graduate was selected in the third round by the Pride with the 11th overall selection at the 2011 NPF Senior Draft in March.

Taylor said she told teams not to draft her given her opportunity to make the national team. The Pride took a chance and are willing to work with her other obligations, Taylor said.

Those obligations start this weekend when the national team plays a two-game exhibition with the Junior Women's National Team today in Plant City, Fla.

"International ball is a whole different level of playing," said Taylor, who played for the USA Futures Team last summer. "One through nine, everyone can play, and it really steps up from college ball. You are facing truly the best in the world."

Taylor is a three-time All-Big Ten first team selection and three-time NFCA All-American honoree. She holds multiple school records, including appearances (162), wins (107), strikeouts (1,220) and no-hitters (eight).

Unfortunately for the former Vikings star, her time with the Wolverines ended in the Ann Arbor Regional after a pair of losses to Kentucky.

Shults made it a few steps further, advancing to the College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The Sooners sophomore broke out this season with astronomical numbers early on. But that production was cut short by pan-ulcerative colitis, forcing her to miss virtually the entire postseason.

She returned in time to get two at-bats against Missouri at the College World Series. Shults was 0-for-2 in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers on June 4, that eliminated Oklahoma from the tournament.

National team tryouts began a week later.

"I went to the camp. I was still trying to get healthy and everything, but I went for the experience," she said. "It was an awesome experience. The facilities are just amazing out there in San Diego."

The day after the camp's completion, Shults received an email announcing that she made the team as an alternate.

"I was so overwhelmed and excited that I was even an option to be a part of the team," she recalled.

Given her numbers this season, it should come as no surprise.

The sophomore batted .338 with 58 RBIs and a Big 12-best 19 home runs, one shy of the school record. The catcher also finished with a .992 fielding percentage.

Aside from her second-team All-American nod, she was an All-Regional honoree and All-Big 12 second-teamer despite missing eight games, seven due to illness.
Shults' Oklahoma teammate, pitcher Keilani Ricketts, also made the national team.

"I never thought I would get an opportunity to represent my country," Shults said. "Growing up always watching the U.S. national team, now I'm living the dream that I had when I was younger."

 

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