by Emily Warner, Daily Vidette Senior Staff
Freshman pitcher Taylor Baxter hails from the Show-Me State, more commonly known as Missouri. So it seems fitting that the Hannibal, Mo., native has had no problem showing her pitching talents in her freshman season with the Illinois State softball team.
Baxter currently has an ERA of 2.40, good for seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference and best on the Redbirds’ roster, and she currently possesses a 4-3 record on the season.
“She doesn’t really get too rattled one way or the other, and I think that’s a pretty good demeanor to have in the circle,” ISU head coach Melinda Fischer said. “[She is] very consistent. I think that’s probably what I would describe Taylor as, and I think that’s a huge plus as a pitcher at the Division I level.”
At Palmyra High School, Baxter’s softball team captured the 2A Missouri state softball championship three straight years, making it the first three-peat. Baxter was also All-State First Team all four years of high school and holds the record for most wins in the state of Missouri with 88.
With such an accomplished softball resumé coming out of high school, topping it in college does not appear easy. Well, Baxter has already achieved the ultimate accomplishment this year: pitching a perfect game.
The ‘Birds faced Central Connecticut State in the USF Fairfield Inn and Suites Tampa North Tournament on Feb. 28 when Baxter struck out eight en route to pitching that perfect game.
“I’ve never pitched one before and then to have one my freshman year in college, it was a great feeling,” Baxter said. “It’s just an accomplishment that every pitcher wants to achieve and then once you do it, it’s like, ‘Wow, I really did that. All my hard work has paid off.’”
But obviously not every game can be a perfect game, especially for a freshman playing at the Division I level, but Baxter finds that she has not only a strong support system in her teammates, but that she has also been thoroughly trained by her coaches.
“The coaches make sure that we are prepared and ready to go once the season starts…making us experience everything that they could possibly think of and practice,” Baxter said. “We do lots of scrimmages that help us understand how the game will be played at the next level. But I think one of the biggest transitions is playing against great players of all kinds instead of high school when there’s only like a few.”
The Redbird pitching rotation also consists of senior Chrissy Burton and juniors Jordan Birch and Megan Warner, all players Baxter has been able to look to for guidance or help.
“I definitely ask them a question anytime I have one and they definitely try to help me relax and stay confident,” Baxter said. “They give me situations when they were younger and how they handled it and they’ve been a really good support system.”
Recently, Baxter’s appearances have been coming in the form of relief, which is something new for the freshman.
“Not very often do kids come in with having relief experience and I think that was a whole different role for [Baxter],” Fischer said. “I think she’s learned how to come in in relief and be effective and I think she’s learned by watching others.”
Fischer also attributes Baxter’s consistency as something that makes her successful when entering the game as a relief pitcher.
“I think she’s effective because she does hit her locations pretty well. I think she has a good mix of locations in and out and she can go up and down,” Fischer said.
Baxter’s next opportunity to showcase her talents will likely come today when the Redbirds host Indiana State for a doubleheader with games starting at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Marian Kneer Stadium.