MEET THE 2012 MVP: Flatonia's Williams let her bat do the talking
June 23, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.
Taylor Williams knew it was her time to make things happen. Flatonia had just let a three-run lead slip away in the seventh inning, and now they were in an extra-inning struggle with Ivanhoe Rayburn for the Class 1A state championship in late May.
The junior third baseman came up to the plate with no one on in the top of the ninth looking for her first hit of the game. Not only did she get a hit, she provided the biggest hit of Flatonia's season.
Williams nailed the fourth pitch of the at bat from Rayburn pitcher Cassidy Hall beyond the left field wall., a ssolo shot gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead. The Lady Bulldogs would add an insurance run and go on to win the game, 6-4.
"They always say big time players come up big in big games or big moments and that's what she did," said Flatonia coach Rodney Stryk.
For her postseason prowess and consistent contributions throughout the 2012 season, Williams was selected as the 2012 Victoria Advocate softball all-area MVP.
She combined to hit .333 with four RBIs and three runs scored at the state tournament, but it was the big flies that stood out. Williams' hit two home runs, one against Garrison and one against Rayburn, that provided Flatonia with the winning margin in both games.
"I put my head down on the ball and it just went over," said Williams about the state final homer. "It was pretty amazing, I didn't know what to do."
Flatonia made their second trip to the state tournament and won the school's second state softball championship. the first came in 2003.
For the season, Williams hit .449 with a team leading 52 RBIs and eight home runs.
Opposing pitchers showed their respect for Williams by walking her a team-high 40 times. She had a team-best on-base percentage of .620.
A trip to the state tournament doesn't just come with bigger crowds and higher stakes, it comes with the increased pressure to step up and make plays or all a team's hard work goes for not.
But the South Carolina commit took the trip to Austin in stride, in fact, it wasn't even the toughest thing she had to go through during her high school career.
"It was actually more nerve racking trying to get committed," Williams said. "I was used to the pressure and everything (so) it didn't really bother me."
Williams, a three-sport athlete, had a short turnaround from the basketball season to softball.
After the Flatonia basketball team was eliminated in the Class 1A regional semifinals on Feb. 25, she joined the softball team in time for the Feb. 28 season opener against Shiner St. Paul.
Years of playing together in select and sub-varsity softball helped the Bulldogs early on. Despite getting players back from basketball, Stryk said the team came together quickly; beating St. Paul with one day of practice, then performing well at the Schulenburg tournament
"We won those two games and were like, 'Man, we're pretty good," Stryk said. "It just carried on from there."
The Bulldogs went 16-1 in the regular season with their only loss coming to co-district champion Ganado.
The Bulldogs were the second seed from District 28-1A. For Williams, the tell-tale sign that Flatonia could go all the way came on March 20.
Flatonia had to rebound from the Ganado loss by going to Shiner to play the 2011 state champions. The Bulldogs dominated and came away with a new-found sense of confidence and purpose.
"I knew that we could go to state when we beat Shiner," Williams said. "I thought that it was a pretty exciting game and us beating them 18-3 made us work even harder for that spot."
Flatonia avenged its loss to Ganado later that season and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed from the district.
On the road to McCombs Field, the Bulldogs dispatched of Holland, Somerville and North Zulch with quick sweeps and survived three-game series against Mart and Woodsboro.
Williams play in Austin earned both a spot on the Class 1A all-tournament team and the championship game MVP.
After the win over Rayburn, Williams said the 70 mile ride from McCombs Field to Flatonia High was an unforgettable one with the stereo blasting and the team fielding congratulatory phone calls from relatives.
"It was definitely a short ride home," Williams said. "The joy was really nice."
Williams is the third NCAA Division I athlete Stryk has coached in 13 years at Flatonia. Like LSU volleyball libero Kassi Mikulik and Texas Tech volleyball middle blocker Brianna Florus, it takes more than talent to make it that far.
"It's a lot of God-given talent, but the kid also works hard," Stryk said. "We've got one more year with her so we're going to make the best of it and see what happens."
Williams is one of seven state tournament starters that return next year.