Yorktown, Indiana native and senior Kara “Tuck-stop” Tucker is in the final stages of her Taylor softball career.
The second base player has only missed one game during her four-year journey at Taylor and has shone brightly to say the least. She was voted team captain by her fellow teammates this season, and Head Softball Coach Erin Bellinger wholeheartedly backed the decision.
In Tucker’s freshman season in 2018, she made the Crossroads League Gold Glove team with an incredible .977 fielding percentage. Though softball’s season was shortened in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tucker was named NAIA Scholar-Athlete and batted an impressive .367 in her 14 starts. This current 2021 season has brought out the most in Tucker’s game, tallying a career-high in hits with 45 and put-outs with 105.
Notably this season, Tucker recorded her first collegiate home run March 22 against Grace College and quickly added a second two games later matching up with Huntington University the very next day.
With only eight games remaining in the regular season until the Crossroads League Tournament, Tucker hopes to lead her team to the NAIA National Championship tournament as she did in her sophomore season.
Despite all the accolades and career-bests, Tucker cherishes the memories with her teammates and Coach Bellinger to a higher degree.
“I think softball led me here to Taylor, but it’s not all about softball,” Tucker said. “I’ve met a lot of great people, my best friends. I’ve always been a pretty competitive person, but realizing softball isn’t everything and the lessons I’ve learned from my four years at Taylor … those are things that will stick with me more.”
Taylor’s trip to Oregon for the 2019 NAIA National Championship stands alone in Tucker’s mind as what she will remember most from softball, but not so much for the accomplishment as for the fellowship with her teammates. This nationals excursion was not an isolated experience determining Tucker’s emphasis on the team, since her love for her team runs deep.
Tucker relayed who she is closest with both on and off the diamond.
“Outside the softball field, I would probably say Alexi Clay,” Tucker said. “She’s really impacted me a lot. She’s very sweet, very Christ-centered, definitely motivates me a lot. On the softball field, our short-stop Emma West. Her and I, we’re very encouraging to each other and push each other a lot.”
Junior Alexi Clay, who fills a utility player position on the team, described Tucker in her own words.
“She works very hard on everything she does, in softball and friendships, relationships,” Clay said. “But on the field, she really leads by example … It’s really fun to watch her play and compete because she gets so into it and she’s this quiet, shy person but once on the field, she’s absolutely dynamite.”
Clay visited Taylor’s campus before committing. She roomed with Tucker overnight, and that immediate impact led Clay to choose Taylor for her college home.
“She’s been a really important person in my life that’s challenged me in a bunch of ways,” Clay said. “She’s been a really good listener. She’s pointed me back to Jesus many times. I could go on and on.”
Bellinger is concluding her fourth year at Taylor, and third season as head coach of Taylor softball. This commonality with Tucker has made their relationship that much more meaningful to Bellinger.
“She’s made me a better coach and I’ve learned a lot from her,” Bellinger said. “I’m in my first years as head coach and I want to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for the players, so to have that relationship with her has been super beneficial.”
Bellinger said documenting Tucker’s career and leadership is hard to put into words because of how large of a mark she has left on the program.
“She is the best second baseman I have seen in a very long time,” Bellinger said. “She is just an incredible woman, and she has grown so much athletically, spiritually, personally with relationships.”
While no specific game jumps out in Bellinger’s mind, she said the second baseman emulates former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter when Tucker expertly turns double plays in practice.
When asked to describe Tucker in a single word, Bellinger found it difficult to limit herself to one.
“Impactful,” Bellinger said. “She’s impacted so many people, her coaching staff, her teammates, even other players on other teams. She’s always impacting someone in some way, and just loves people really well.”