Softball pitcher earns ?Player of the Week? in first Sac State game

Joe Fleming

Sacramento State pitcher Taylor Stroud was awarded Pacific Coast Conference “Player of the Week” in her first game as a Hornet.

This first appearance was as a relief pitcher in the team’s season opener at Fresno State on Feb 12. She entered the game in the fifth inning when the score was tied 4-4 with no outs and a runner on second base. Taylor Stroud was able to shut down the Bulldogs and pitched her way out of the jam. It was not until the 11th inning that a run came across the plate for Fresno on a throwing error from Sacramento State’s catcher down to second base. The ball sailed into centerfield allowing the winning run to score.

Even though she took a tough loss, she pitched well enough to earn player of the week.

More importantly Stroud immediately went over to console the distraught teammate, said head coach Kathy Strahan.

“Taylor went right off the mound, put her arm around her, told her it was all right,” Strahan said. “You just don’t see that often out of a freshmen, who (was playing) in her first college game. It’s remarkable.”

Stroud, a 19-year-old freshman from Santa Rosa, plans on continuing her dominance in high school here at the college level. Stroud achieved a 0.25 ERA her senior year at Montgomery High School, threw two no-hitters, completed 85 straight scoreless innings and pitched a combined 35-4 record her junior and senior years. Her excellent record in high school earned Stroud a partial scholarship at Sac State.

“I’m pretty competitive,” Stroud said. “I’m hoping I can keep up what I did in high school.”

The support she received from her family is a major part of why she was able to have so much success in sports.

Her parents, Rod and Denise Stroud, were constantly driving her from their home in Santa Rosa to where she played in San Jose, which is approximately two hours away.

They made the trip as often as three times a week. The result of softball expenses caused the family to live more conservatively &- something that her older brother Jarrod and younger sister Megan also dealt with growing up.

“We had to make some major sacrifices, we only had, like 10 channels,” Stroud said. “It was really tight with money.”

Even necessities such as groceries were a valued commodity for the family, and vacations gave way to fund the softball lifestyle. Both Jarrod and Megan were often burdened because of Taylor’s games, but they never wavered in their support of her.

She said the rigorous and demanding schedule actually brought the family closer together because of all the time they spent with each other. Instead of watching television, Stroud and her father would play catch.

“I was so lucky to have such a supportive family,” Stroud said. “I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have that.”

Going home is not something she has been able to do all the time because she has no car. Her parents, along with her faith, inspire her to be altruistic in life.

She finds time to give back to her community by volunteering at Happy Time Preschool in Santa Rosa where she spent time with toddlers. This winter she also helped at a homeless outreach program in Sacramento.

“I do it mostly because I enjoy it and it’s really rewarding,” Stroud said. “When I help out the homeless they are very grateful. It just feels good to know you’re helping someone.”

She now finds herself giving all she has got to her team at Sac State.

“She’s just passionate about everything she does,” Strahan said. “She doesn’t go out and play for accolades. She plays because she loves playing.”

Stroud’s teammates share the same sentiments as the coach. According to some members of the team, she did not take long to jump into action and be a valued member of the squad.

“I think she’s done amazing, she’s adapted really well,” said sophomore catcher Molly Smith. “In the fall when she started her first game it blew everybody’s mind. She did amazing.”

Other teammates and coaches are equally impressed with her positive, yet sassy attitude that keeps the dugout lively.

Senior pitcher Megan Schaefer has gotten to know Stroud well and loves the fiery approach she has.

“She says stuff that freshman wouldn’t normally say. She’s such a goofball, (and) has one of the biggest work ethics,” Schaefer said. “As an upperclassman I even look up to her.”

The team’s pitching coach, Lori Perez, has enjoyed Stroud’s “quirky” demeanor and hard work thus far.

“She’s been confident in her abilities and has shown what we thought she could do at this level,” Perez said. “She’s got the type of personality (and) work ethic that we look for in this program.”

Stroud is not a typical high velocity pitcher. She tries to mix it up with several different off-speed varieties. On a team where they have plenty of fastball experts, she fits in nicely to show the other team something different. Strahan calls her the “spin doctor.”

“She has so much spin on the ball, a hitter can know what’s coming and can’t get a solid piece,” she said.

Stroud’s ability to learn fast and improve is something she has always been good at doing. She started playing softball at the age of 9, but her slow start did not last long. She said she was “horrible” at first, but it was her dream to play at the college level. Sac State began recruiting Stroud at age 16 by going to her high school games and by the time she was junior she verbally committed to becoming a Hornet.

“There were a few other colleges, but the second I stepped on campus I knew I wanted to come here,” Stroud said. “It was perfect.”

You can reach Joe Fleming at jfleming@statehornet.com