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Taylor puts together a season for the ages

June 17, 2007|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Jordan Taylor jumped straight into the air four times, kicking her feet backward in gleeful celebration. It was so ... girlish, not the businesslike reaction she had exhibited as she marched toward a perfect season.

She had just pitched Valencia to a 1-0 victory over Foothill League rival Newhall Hart in the Southern Section Division I finals despite not bringing her A game.

But on the strength of that one run, Taylor had done something the other great Southland pitchers of previous eras never accomplished, something that eluded Lisa Fernandez, DeDe Weiman and Michele Granger, Heather Compton, Amanda Freed and Keira Goerl.

Taylor (32-0) had run the table, setting the standard for the best record in state history.

Jackie Oakley of Huntington Beach Ocean View was 31-0 in 1985, but 22 years later, against a substantially stronger collection of opponents and a more competitive generation of players, Taylor's mark easily trumped Oakley's.

For her record-setting role in Valencia's wire-to-wire run at No. 1 in the Southland rankings, Taylor has been selected The Times' softball player of the year.

The Vikings (32-1) were No. 1 in the state and in the nation, according to and Their only loss was in a game Taylor did not pitch against Oxnard Camarillo ace Lindsey Dean.

Is Taylor among the best ever?

"She ain't no chicken noodle," said Corona Santiago Coach John Perez, who stopped short of calling Taylor the best he's ever seen. "We faced a girl, Jessica van der Linden.... "

Van der Linden, the Cerritos pitcher who graduated in 2000, went on to be selected college softball's best player in 2003 while at Florida State.

"Looking back at those girls, Granger was still all-time No. 1, and Fernandez was right there, but she was a more complete ballplayer," said Lance Eddy, who began coaching at Anaheim Canyon in 1983. "But Jordan Taylor is probably top five. Jordan's got to be the third-best pitcher just because of the level she had to play at."

Out of her up-and-down windup, bringing the ball from her ankle to her chest and then unleashing a yellow blur from her 6-foot-1 frame, the Michigan-bound recruit surrendered only 14 runs -- six earned -- in 216 innings. She had an earned-run average of 0.19, the best of any Southland pitcher who threw more than 89 innings.

Taylor struck out 406, an average of 13.2 per seven innings, and opponents collectively batted .102. She walked 45 and hit nine. She had four no-hitters among her 24 shutouts.

But most impressively, those totals came against possibly the toughest schedule in state history. Valencia won the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., the Best of the West tournament in Santa Maria, the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim and the Southern Section Division I title.

Taylor finished her career 76-8 with an 0.27 ERA and 1,055 strikeouts in 579 1/3 innings, a 12.7 average a game.

"I think it's good," Taylor said, "to leave a little bit of legacy -- if you want to call it that -- behind."

That's what it's called, and it was very good indeed.


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