LSU freshman softballer ready for 2021 re-deaux

LSU sophomore shortstop Taylor Pleasants is hitting .358 with a team-high eight homers and 32 RBIs. FILE PHOTO BY: LSU sports information

Among her vast YouTube highlights during an illustrious high school athletic career at Houston-Dobie was a frenetic stretch during a volleyball match where Taylor Pleasants crashed into the scorer’s table to keep a rally alive.

Pleasants kept her eye on a volleyball tailing out of play while trying to brace herself for a collision with the table that resulted in a trip to the dentist for a root canal and to have some of her teeth fixed.

“It was all good,” said Pleasants, the starting shortstop for LSU’s nationally ranked softball team this past season. “We won the game.”

That in a nutshell is all you need know about the lengths Pleasants is willing to go to help her team win a game.

She has brought a similar approach to LSU’s Tiger Park. Pleasants has visions of chasing a foul ball and making a leaping grab sailing over her team’s sunken dugout.

“That’s my dream,” she said.

Nearly three years after first committing to LSU, Pleasants’ anticipated first season with the Tigers was cut short. The coronavirus pandemic forced the NCAA’s cancellation of the Women’s College World Series and the remainder of the 2020 season.

LSU finished 21-3 and ranked fifth nationally. The Tigers were about to start Southeastern Conference play March 13 at South Carolina when the conference postponed the three-game series.

“I looked forward to playing with this team, they always talked about how SEC play was the best,” Pleasants said. “I was looking forward to experience that with them. The World Series was our end goal. Our theme was, ‘Be First’, to be the first team to win a national championship in softball. I feel like we could have done it, but next year they better watch out.”

Pleasants established a long-standing relationship with LSU coach Beth Torina stretching to the former Dobie High standout committing to the Tigers after her freshman season. She continued to build her national caliber reputation, twice representing the United States during international competition.

Pleasants won gold last summer with United States’ Junior National Team during the Women’s Softball World Cup. She was also a part of the USA Softball International Cup team which claimed a bronze medal.

“It’s a really special place,” Pleasants said of LSU. “There’s no place like it.”

Added Torina of Pleasants: “She’s really talented, special, and I think our team knew it when they saw her right away.”

The 6-foot Pleasants not only brought in an immense amount of talent, but the right temperament to step into the shortstop vacancy created by the graduation of long-time staple Amber Serrett.

Pleasants started in all 24 of her team’s games, batting in the key No. 3 spot with a .383 average. She tied for the team lead in home runs (four) and RBIs (21) and was second in runs scored (23).

She also fielded her position well with a .917 fielding percentage, committing six errors in 72 total chances.

“The coaches did a good job of preparing us for every game,” Pleasants said. “Everyone on our team was very team oriented. We just try and do everything for the team. Just produce for the team and not worry about your accomplishments. You have to be unselfish and get done what the team needs.”

Four games into her career, Pleasants found herself in pivotal spot when LSU trailed then No. 13 Oklahoma State, 2-1, entering the bottom of the seventh inning at Tiger Park.

Following an out to start the inning Pleasants, who was already 2-for-2 in the game, fouled off the first two pitches she faced and worked the count to 2-2 against OSU relief pitcher Kelly Maxwell.

Pleasants fouled off three additional pitches before delivering a towering home run to left-center field, sending the Tigers to a dramatic 3-2 victory in the first walk-off homer in her career at any level of play.

“It meant a lot to me,” she said. “It showed me that my teammates are there for me; they cared. It was great to see them so excited for me when I crossed the plate. It made me want to fight for them even more.”

Pleasants was voted the SEC’s Freshman of the Week after batting .692 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs over a five-game stretch. She went on to hit safely in 11 of her first 13 games, picking up two homers with three doubles and eight RBIs.

Moreover, Pleasants drew 14 of her team-high 19 walks, including a school-record five in a 20-4 triumph over Sam Houston State on Feb 22.

After going hitless in two straight games, her longest stretch of the season, Pleasants went 3-3 with a homer and four RBIs in an 11-1 mercy-rule win over South Alabama.

The team’s 21st victory on March 10, which was expected to be a final tune-up for the start of SEC play, turned out to be Pleasants’ final memory of her first collegiate season.

“In every situation we can always find a positive,” Pleasants said. “I’m able to get more practice and more work in and be a freshman again. Having more experience under my belt could be a blessing in disguise. It was disappointing but I think everything will end up working out the way it’s supposed to.”

More than a 1½ months later, Pleasants has adjusted to a life without athletics. She’s completing the spring semester of online classes from her home in Houston and has also built in time to continue working on her craft.

Pleasants has been able to see some live pitching, hitting against former teammates, while getting the opportunity to work on her defense and throwing at her high school.

“It really hurt at first to have it all taken away,” Pleasants said. “This team was really special. It was heartbreaking with all of the uncertainty. No one could really answer any questions and were just hoping for the best. I think everyone had tears in their eyes. It’s starting to come together since we’ve had time to sit back and look at all of the possibilities that are coming.”

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William Weathers

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