By Brandon Speck
Born a Booneville Blue Devil, Jessica Taylor brought a championship to the rival Bearcats.
After three failed tries in the North finals, Taylor and her Baldwyn Lady Bearcats not only got over that hump, but took the next step, winning the 2013 MHSAA Class 2A state slow-pitch title in October.
Taylor is the Journal’s 2013 Coach of the Year.
“I grew up as a Blue Devil, but this has truly been a home for me for the past nine years,” Taylor said. “I’m very proud to be here and feel like part of the family.”
Hamilton’s Bryan Loague, Nettleton’s Dana Rhea and Amory’s Chris Pace were also considered for the honor. All three led their teams to championship series – Hamilton won 1A.
Baldwyn had a 22-game win streak at one point and finished the season at 31-2 after a sweep of East Webster in the finals, Baldwyn’s first appearance.
Taylor credits a senior-heavy team, seven of them starters: outfielders Jorda Waters, Sheneria Tyes, Mackenzie Riley and Shelby Blackwell; infielders Maggie Martin, Sam Phllips and Julie Grimes.
“They’ve grown up together. They’ve been a blessing to coach,” Taylor said. “They work so hard. They’re so driven and motivated themselves. I picked a good year to be pregnant.”
Taylor has a son, with a daughter on the way.
She was a standout fast-pitch pitcher at Booneville, played on Northeast’s first fast-pitch team – and also played basketball there. She finished her college career – she still plays summer league – at the University of North Alabama.
Taylor claims she can no longer fling it like she could 15 years ago.
If she’s right, shoulder surgery has a lot to do with that.
That’s fine, she’s doing plenty of damage without a glove, coaching at third base.
Baldwyn swept through every round of the playoffs , going 8-0.
“This place was packed, the support and enthusiasm and excitement around this sport this year has been overwhelming,” she said.