AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“It’s my goal and everyone else’s goal to win it all,” Taylor said. “Last year, we got so close, and I think we deserve to get back there because everyone is just so focused on winning. As soon as you hit the playoffs, you’re playing the best of the best and you’re no longer playing in the Foothill League against the same girls that you see every year. So definitely, the mentality changes.” Coach Donna Lee, who has announced her pending retirement, hasn’t been shy about giving Taylor the softball. Taylor has pitched all but five innings this season, and there’s no way the coach and Taylor’s teammates won’t be counting on her 100 percent to carry the Vikings through the five-round tournament. Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way. “She’s got the kind of personality where she wants to pitch every game,” Lee said. “As soon as a runner or two get on base, something happens to her, and there’s just a huge difference. Yes, she has fun but she’s very competitive and she just does not like to lose.” To put Taylor’s performance in perspective, it should be pointed out that softball is a much more advanced game than it was a generation ago, which means a 400-strikeout performance – something that’s only been accomplished once all-time by a Daily News coverage area pitcher and never by anyone from the San Fernando, Santa Clarita or Antelope valleys – in today’s era is utterly amazing. In the 1970s and 1980s, frankly, a lot of high school softball teams were lucky to have a shortstop who could throw all the way to first base or more than two or three batters who could even manage a foul tip against a pitcher like Taylor. “It’s hard to compare softball now to 20 years ago because now there’s personal coaches and hitting cages and all these other things that just weren’t around back then,” Lee said. Most of Valencia’s fielders have touched the ball just a few times all season. “Some games I get just one ball or none at all, so I have to try hard just to stay focused as we go through the game,” shortstop Alyssa Ishibashi said. “It’s just really nice having her on the team because we know Jordan can always pull us out of a situation.” Ishibashi chuckled when recalling a hapless Burroughs player last week who swung and missed a pitch by about five feet while striking out on one of Taylor’s wicked changeups. “I heard the girl yell, `I hate that pitch.’ Hey, I hate that pitch, too, but the good thing is I only have to worry about hitting against Taylor during batting practice,” Ishibashi said. Taylor already has committed to defending national champion Michigan. The 400 strikeouts are pretty much a given – she should conquer that barrier in about the third inning against some third-place opponent Valencia figures to face in the first round of the playoffs – and the right-hander also is just one victory shy of the area single-season win record of 26. About all that’s left to do is simply win five more in a row for a title. It won’t be easy – it never is in softball no matter how loaded a favored team is – but if anyone is up for the task, it’s Taylor. Taylor’s apex to the top hasn’t always been smooth. She threw hard the first time she picked up a softball as an 11-year-old. Where her pitches ended up was another story. “I was probably one of the worst pitchers ever,” she said. “Basically, if I didn’t walk the batter, I’d hit them. I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today.” In her first season at the William S. Hart PONY League, her mother and father were her coaches and didn’t want Taylor to pitch at all. “We said no because rec-ball parents can be brutal and we didn’t want to put pressure on her to throw strikes,” said her mother, Marjorie. “But she wanted to do it, so eventually we relented. She was always a very fast pitcher – but wild.” A passion for the game kept Taylor going, and through private coaching and summer-league competition, she soon blossomed. She practiced every day and traveled regularly to Anaheim for pitching lessons, first with legendary Ernie Parker and then with Richard McArthur, who still tutors Taylor on Thursdays throughout the year when she’s not pitching in a game. “We leave at 5:30 p.m. for a half-hour lesson that begins at 8, and we don’t get back until 10:15, so it’s a long day,” Marjorie said. “But Jordan loves it. She wouldn’t be doing this if she didn’t love the game. We’re not the kind of parents who pressure a kid to play softball for a scholarship or to support a school. She just really enjoys softball. “I would have never, ever guessed in my wildest imagination that she’d be where she is today. There’s just one word for it: surreal.” Perhaps Taylor, 17, eventually will be good enough for the Olympics or professional softball. “The game of softball is just a great game to play, so I’m taking things one step at a time,” Taylor said. “That’s the reason I’m going to Michigan – to give me a life after softball. I’m hoping to study advertising, probably on the art side of it.” For now, such career plans can wait. Taylor is too busy striking people and throwing no-hitters to fuss about the future. [email protected] (661) 257-5218160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VALENCIA – Just like one of her unhittable 68-mph fastballs, Valencia High softball pitcher Jordan Taylor knows exactly where she needs to be. With an incredible 395 strikeouts and a 0.10 ERA in 202 innings, Taylor (25-4) is on the verge of perhaps the Foothill League’s finest season ever – offensive or defensive, baseball or softball. Yet there are important issues ahead, particularly the Southern Section Div. I playoffs beginning Friday. Valencia (26-4) is expected to receive the No. 2 seed behind Camarillo (one of the few teams to defeat Valencia season) – Taylor and Co. don’t want to finish second again. Last year, the team advanced to the championship game for the first time in school history but lost to Royal of Simi Valley 2-0 in the final – Taylor pitched seven scoreless relief and got a no-decision – and this year the plan isn’t just to get back to the final but to win it. And why not? Pitchers control the game of the softball and Taylor is as good as they come. The 6-foot-1 junior is one win short of the Foothill League single-season record, and she’s pitched nine no-hitters, including two in a row over her past two starts. Only once over her past 14 starts has Taylor allowed more than three hits in a game, and she’s struck out 12 or more 11 times during the streak.