Wearing a uniform of red, white and blue, Michigan softball pitcher Jordan Taylor pulled up to the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, ready to compete against some of the world’s top players.
Taylor, who was named in mid-May to compete on the USA Futures team in the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball, couldn’t wait to step on the mound.
But at her first sight of the stadium, the senior saw the Women’s College World Series Championship banner congratulating UCLA on their National Championship and immediately felt a pain in the bottom of her stomach.
“Pulling up to the stadium for the first time was hard,” Taylor said. “There (was) UCLA Champions 2010 stuff everywhere. I didn’t think it was going to be difficult, I didn’t even think about it.
“But it definitely put a little fire back in me, if there wasn’t already one, to really get back next year. Everyone knew that we really missed a golden opportunity with last year’s team. I think it will kind of kick us in our butts a little bit to get back there.”
Taylor took it upon herself to ignite the fire for next season’s Wolverines team by putting her talents on display for the USA Futures team. The Futures team — comprised of the best current collegiate softball players from around the country — took third place in the competition, with a 3-4 overall record.
The competition featured the USA National team, the USA Futures team and all-star teams from Canada and Japan. With little time to practice and facing all-star lineups on tap each night, Taylor had to quickly get comfortable with new catchers and the defense behind her.
In the Futures’ first game against Canada, Taylor got the nod to pitch the seventh inning and was credited with her first save of the competition, as the team beat Canada 5-4 on July 23.
Taylor was also the starting pitcher in the team’s first game against the USA National team the following day and kept the best professional softball players in the United States on their toes before surrendering the loss, 1-0. In the loss, Taylor only gave up three hits while striking out four.
“When you’re facing teams like these, you can’t miss a pitch,” Taylor said. “It really brings the competitive drive out of me. It opened my eyes a little bit to exactly what I could do and what I would be able to do, which is keep one of the best hitting teams to one run. It just gave me a little bit more confidence in my abilities.”
The right-hander also tossed the third-place game of the competition, as the Futures secured third place in the World Cup with Taylor’s complete game performance. She struck out seven batters in the 9-3 Futures’ victory on July 26.
“I’ve always had a competitive drive, but I think it was upped a little bit more after playing with this team,” Taylor said. “I (saw) that I could compete in international play against some of the best players and against teams that have been playing together for up to 10 years … It definitely showed me that I need to start being my own pitcher, and that I don’t need to constantly be like other pitchers and use their strategies.”
The hurler pitched 16 total innings and finished the tournament with a team-best 1.69 ERA in four games. Taylor gave up eight hits and three earned runs and only one home run, while striking out 11 and walking just three.
The 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball marked United States’ ace pitcher Jennie Finch’s retirement from professional softball — a departure that was filled with memories and sadness from USA National and Futures team members alike.
But with Finch finished competing for the USA, the National team’s pitching situation has drastically changed. Taylor has already recognized the possibilities the future could hold if she stays focused on her game.
“The national roster is extremely difficult to get on, and now that Jennie Finch retired there is a buzz about who is going to be the new pitcher,” Taylor said. “The pitching spots are always competitive. There are girls who have been on the border (of securing that spot) for a couple years now. You have to be on your game and do well, and playing for the Futures has given me more motivation to do (my) best.”