The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 9, 2013

Jon Gerardi's high school softball column: Warrior Run's Parker joins good company


Daily Item

---- — When it was all said and done and Warrior Run's Laura Harris recorded her final strikeout in 2001, Taylor Parker's softball career was just in its infancy.

Parker remembers her dad and brother playing baseball in her backyard way back then and she wanted to play with them. That's when her dad gave her a baseball glove and well, as they say, the rest is history.

She was into ballet, gymnastics and even cheerleading before she put on that baseball mitt in 2000 as a 5-year-old. Fast forward then 10 years later when Parker became a freshman at Warrior Run.

The soft-spoken Defender had years of softball under her belt by that point: Little League, Amateur Softball Association, traveling ball. You name it, she played it.

So her talent was starting to take shape and develop as she became a freshman and it was around that time that Parker first became aware of just who Harris was.

That's where the two pitchers' stories intertwine.

"When I started playing high school softball, people were comparing me to her and I found how good she was," Parker said. "Her last year was in 2001 and that was my first year of tee-ball softball. She holds the all-time strikeout record in a single season (with) 352 strikeouts. That's amazing! So it's an honor to be compared to her."

Parker may have been a bit surprised as her career started to be compared with one of the Defenders' best all-time pitchers. After all, Harris struck out 791 batters in her illustrious career, a mark many thought would be tough for anyone to make a run at.

But it didn't take long for Parker to cement her place in history in Turbotville and show everyone she was definitely deserving of those early comparisons to Harris.

Against Southern Columbia last week, Parker inched closer and closer to Harris' milestone with each strikeout, needing just seven when the game started.

"I knew where I was with how many strikeouts were needed. Nobody else said anything," Parker said about drawing close to the record. "Most of us knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but we all just kept quiet."

For many fans, perhaps even Parker herself, the countdown quietly occurred with each strikeout.

When the dust finally settled, Parker easily surpassed Harris' record in that win over the Tigers, and she surpassed the 800 strikeout milestone on Tuesday night against Montoursville.

Currently, the senior is sitting at 805 career strikeouts.

While Parker is glad she's the record holder, not even she thought she'd top it.

"I thought the record was there to stay because the pitchers' rubber was moved back from 40 feet to 43 feet," Parker said. "This gives the hitters three more feet to see the ball and more time to adjust to the pitch."

As that mark did grow closer though, Parker's excitement grew as well.

"It was very exciting once we knew there was a chance I could break the school record. I just had to adjust to the longer pitching distance," Parker said. "I have to admit, I was nervous during the Southern Columbia game knowing that I was close to the record."

Funny enough, that may be the most nervous Parker's ever been. Anyone who has attended any of Warrior Run's games the last few seasons knows how confident Parker is inside the circle and she rarely, if ever, gets anxious against an opponent.

Parker admits she thought Harris' record was there to stay, but she wanted to make a run at it. It was a personal goal she set when this season started, knowing she was within striking distance.

Many thought Harris' mark wouldn't ever fall and who knows, maybe Parker's mark will be one that stands the test of time. Regardless, it says a lot about Turbotville that two dominant pitchers have graced the hallways at Warrior Run High School in just over a decade's span.

"We have a lot of younger Warrior Run softball players that come to our games and watch us. I remember going to watch Milton's Nicole Smith play when I was younger," Parker said. "I seen her pitch several times and I wanted to pitch just like her. I believe there are a lot of younger girls that are inspired by the pitchers in our area, and some day they will be in the circle of the diamond."

Maybe one of those younger softball players in the stands will be the one making a run at Parker's record someday down the road.

n Jon Gerardi covers high school softball for The Daily Item. Email comments to jgerardi@dailyitem.com . Follow him on Twitter at twitter/com/JonGerardi.