The Taylor softball team has been fighting for a chance at reaching the NAIA National Championship for a second consecutive season, but in a conference with three ranked teams, wins don’t come easy for the Trojans. However, Taylor’s roster is a mixture of experienced veterans complimented by rising freshmen who are all prepared to finish the season strong and close the year with a Nationals run.
Emma West is one of four seniors on Taylor’s softball team this season and one of two that play in the field. This year’s Trojans welcomed 11 freshmen and new head coach Jessica Brown, so having an experienced player like West leading the team has been invaluable.
West has been fielding ground balls and hitting dingers for as long as she can remember. Her journey to Taylor started when she was recruited by former softball head coach Brad Bowser, and in her four years playing for the Trojans, she’s started every game she’s played in and has gradually improved her fielding and batting over her four years.
The hybrid shortstop and outfielder currently leads the team with 15 stolen bases and sits second on the team in batting average with a stellar 0.346 AVG. She carries the responsibility of sitting in the team’s leadoff batting slot and hasn’t failed to deliver. West is third on the team in hits and runs with 46 and 30 respectively and never slacks off on the defensive end of the ball with eight double plays and 93 assists.
“Emma has the ‘it’ factor,” Coach Brown said. “Everyone is drawn to her, as a person and as an athlete. She is the glue to our infield and the spark to our offense. Her role and presence are immeasurable.”
Emma has brought that spark to some of Taylor’s biggest games this season. She notched four hits in four at-bats in a one-run victory over Grace College on March 28 and led the charge in Taylor’s double-header against Mount Vernon Nazarene University on April 20, where she earned five hits, four runs and two RBIs between the two wins.
In recent years, Taylor’s softball teams have strived to push themselves farther past the conference tournament every season. While Nationals is one of West’s focuses this year, her mindset rests on more than just the game.
“Obviously, my main goal is to win a championship, but as I have gotten older, I have changed my mindset a bit,” West said. “Yes, I want to win a championship and go to Nationals, but I also want to leave my mark on this program and my teammates in the best way possible. I have really learned that my identity isn't in this sport that we play, but ultimately in Christ. It has allowed me to play free, knowing that my identity isn't in this sport. ”
That focus carries to the rest of the team as well.
“One of our core values is ‘Kingdom Minded.’ We really try to put things into an eternal perspective,” Coach Brown said. “At the end of the day, The Lord isn’t going to be impressed with how many wins or losses you have. But He will care about if and how you glorify Him and share the Gospel through the sport you play.”
The Trojans have locked in their spot in the Crossroads League Tournament with an 23-28 record (at the time of writing) with a difficult road to qualify for Nationals. Their first game in the tournament will be against the No. 25 Mount Vernon Nazarene Cougars, but whoever steps onto the mound will first have to face the experienced bat of the Trojans’ number five: senior Emma West.