It’s difficult to stand out on a high school softball team loaded with senior talent.
Even as a very talented senior herself, Taylor Long (GMC Prep Class of 2016) sometimes got lost in the shuffle amongst the star-studded 2015 GMC Prep softball team, a squad that won back-to-back GHSA Class A-Public state softball titles and produced more than a handful of college softball signees. Like many of the other senior student-athletes in that class, Long earned an opportunity to continue playing the sport she loved (and still loves) at the next level when the coaches of East Georgia State College took notice of her during that second state championship run. She enjoyed great individual success playing for the two-year school in Swainsboro, but once her time was up she was faced with a decision — transfer and play for a four-year program or just finish out her college days focusing on school.
After choosing to stick with softball Long landed at Division III LaGrange College in west Georgia where she put up some of the biggest numbers of her softball career this spring.
“Something kicked in and I was just on a roll,” she told The Union-Recorder Tuesday.
The utility player turned third baseman turned full-time shortstop got on base more often than not in 2019, posting a .508 on-base percentage to go along with her stout .482 batting average in 112 trips to the plate. From her leadoff position in the batting order, she scored 35 runs and accumulated 19 RBIs while smacking three home runs. All that and more added up to the rising senior earning USA South West Division first team honors along with a couple of prestigious team awards — Long was named the Panthers' Team MVP and received the Most Valuable Offensive Award for her outstanding work on the diamond. This marked the first time in LaGrange head softball coach Jennifer Claybrook’s 15 years at the school that both honors have been bestowed upon the same player.
“That was a great feeling,” Long said. “All these years of playing and hard work are paying off, and now everyone gets to see that. Throughout high school, I was playing with a bunch of people that were really great and awesome, and I feel like I didn’t get recognized as much as everyone else did. When I got to college people were finally seeing everything I was doing and it’s just a really great feeling.”
In addition to posting those outrageous numbers at the plate, Long got the job done in other ways. Throughout her high school career, she was shuffled around to different positions before being recruited as a third baseman to play at East Georgia. When she got to LaGrange she found out the team needed someone to play shortstop, so she threw her hat into the ring.
“I was a little nervous at LaGrange at first because I went from a 12-person team to having like 36 teammates,” Long said. “I worked my butt off because I wanted to start. I didn’t want to be that transfer that comes in and just sits back because I love the game of softball. I just had to be out there.”
She earned the starting SS job and posted the aforementioned stellar numbers with her bat, but at LaGrange, she also found something that had not previously been a big part of her game — speed. The 2019 Panther softball MVP swiped 25 bases her junior year, setting a new program record, but she’s not ready to stop there.
“I want to break my own stolen base record next season,” Long said of her goals for her final year of collegiate softball. “I also want to build on everything I did this season because it was my best college season ever, I would say. I’d like to make fewer errors and also maybe hit more home runs early in the year instead of waiting until the end of the season (all three came in LaGrange’s last nine games).”
Team-wise Long hopes she and the Panthers can make a deep run in the USA South conference tournament, something she hasn’t gotten to experience since her freshman year at East Georgia playing in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association (GCAA) tourney.
With her final season of college softball lying ahead of her, Long has also been busy preparing for her post-softball career. She is a sports management major and through that, she has gotten to intern with the Atlanta Falcons, Macon Mayhem hockey, and even got to work Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. Right now Long plans to pursue a career in sports marketing after graduation.
There is no doubt in the softball star’s mind that she made the right choice when deciding where to further her academic and athletic career.
“The atmosphere at LaGrange is really great and I've enjoyed it. I couldn’t have picked a better school to transfer to.”