By Maren Angus
Taylor Pack has patiently waited for her turn to star on softball’s biggest stage. In a winner’s bracket game against Florida on Friday night in Oklahoma City, the stage was hers and the spotlight was hot.
She stepped into the box for her second at-bat against Kelly Barnhill and knew what pitch she wanted to hit.
“I stepped out of the box, took a deep breath and looked up into the night sky,” Pack said. “I wasn’t going to get out of the at-bat like this (watching strikes). The next pitch was a ball but the next I knew was a rise. I swung and hoped for the best.”
Her best was a ball that jumped off the bat and sailed over the left field fence and the Bruins were suddenly ahead 5-4 after being down 4-0. Ironically, it was also UCLA’s first hit of the night.
“I didn’t think it was gone,” Pack said. “I was watching the left fielder go back and I was just like please go, please go, please go and it went.”
UCLA went on to win 7-6 but, unlike some of her teammates who celebrated the win with their families after the game, Pack was waiting for hers to call. Even as she wrapped up her post game interviews, she was still waiting.
“My sister had graduation today so my whole family is at her graduation and they are recording the game so they haven’t seen the game yet,” Pack said. “They have no idea because I haven’t received any text messages or anything from them. They just told me they were waiting to watch it later so they’re not going to know what happens.”
The junior catcher has had her ups-and-downs at UCLA. As a freshman she was used primarily as a pinch hitter. Last season, she battled a shoulder injury that limited her to one at-bat. This season has been a completely different story.
She started 32 games and appeared in 48 as a catcher or designated player. But the dream, just like many others, has been to play at the Women’s College World Series in front of 9,000-plus fans.
“I know I’ve been preparing for this all three years I’ve been here,” Pack said. “I was nervous but I knew I had nothing to lose. So, I just put everything I had into that at-bat and I tried to do everything I could for the team.”
And that team is sitting in the semifinals with a day off Saturday, awaiting its next opponent to climb out of the loser’s bracket.