Taylor Edwards homered in her second game as a Husker. She homered again in her sixth game…and seventh…and eighth…and ninth...and 10th.
With six home runs in her first 10 games, Edwards opened the 11th game of her career against Tennessee Tech with one hit – a single – in her first three at bats. In her fourth and final at bat with one out in the top of the seventh inning, Edwards took a first-pitch strike then watched two balls go by. A foul ball evened the count at 2-2 before Edwards blasted a long home run off the scoreboard in center field. The solo shot made her just the second player in NCAA history to homer in six consecutive games, and Edwards accomplished the feat just 11 games into her career.
And so the legend of Taylor Edwards the Husker was born. But Edwards’ legend goes back much further.
Along with her sister Tatum, the Edwards twins were two of the most highly recruited players in the country. The tales of the twins’ softball talents spread far and wide and college coaches took notice at an early age. The legend stretched to Nebraska, where Head Coach Rhonda Revelle was hearing stories of a pair of do-it-all twins turning heads in talent-rich Southern California.
“I got a phone call one day from a gentleman that is from Nebraska originally but has lived in California for a long time,” Revelle recalled. “He said he knew it was early but I should be aware of these two twins who are 12 years old. Everyone is going to be recruiting them.
“I went and researched what team they played for and we went to watch them at 14-and-under nationals. Now it’s pretty common to go to 14-and-unders but at the time, Nebraska was the only school there.”
Taylor Edwards noticed the attention.
“My first memory of seeing college coaches in the stands was when I was at 14-and-under nationals and Nebraska was there watching my games,” she said. “I noticed many of my teammates weren’t being watched until they were in 16- or 18-and-under, so it was a big deal that Nebraska was at my games. Nebraska was the first school that watched me play and later, they were the first school to write me a letter.”
While the twins were playing in front of college coaches earlier and more frequently than their peers, Taylor had known for awhile that softball was in her future plans. When it came time to start considering colleges, Edwards took both a personal and analytical approach to the process before arriving at a decision following her sophomore year of high school.
“I knew Nebraska was the place for me because when I came for an unofficial visit, the feeling I had being around the town, team and coaches was unreal,” she said. “The best thing I had done was build a pros and cons chart for each school I was looking at, and that’s a big reason why Tatum and I chose Nebraska.
“The most challenging thing for me was deciding on my future when I was only 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. It was crazy to think that I was deciding where I wanted to go to college when I had no idea what I was learning that week in my high school chemistry class.”
Edwards never wavered in her commitment to becoming a Husker, as the twins would often watch Nebraska when the Huskers traveled to California. While the decision to become a Husker took some time, one thing Taylor knew from the start was that she wanted to play with her twin sister.
“Tatum and I had to be on the same page about where to go, and we were which was a great feeling to know that we could see our future right in front of us.”
Twin Sister Tatum is Taylor’s ‘Best Friend’
The Edwards twins were recruited by nearly every school in the country and the sisters let every coach know upfront that they were a package deal. If you wanted Taylor, you wanted Tatum too, and vice versa.
“Tatum means the world to me. She’s not just my twin and sister, she’s my best friend, the one person that forever will be by my side through everything, “Taylor said. “I spend every day with her and have been for 21 years going on 22. She helps me remember who I truly am, helps me feel comfortable in every situation that I’m put in.
“She gives me the love and confidence to be happy in life and always know that I’m loved. She’s my best friend, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to share every day with.”
The twins share nearly every moment together. They live together and own two cats, Kody and Pretty. They also see plenty of each other on the softball field. In addition to team practice and games, Taylor often catches Tatum during bullpen sessions. The duo, “TNT’ as they’re called, push each other to be better, Taylor said.
“Having Tatum on the field with me every day means so much. She pushes me to be a better player and teammate. I’m a very competitive person but she pushes me to a level that no one ever has because she is my twin, and I always want to be better than her. A sibling rivalry, I guess you can call it.”
Taylor was chosen as a team captain for the first time this spring, and she credits Tatum for helping her become a leader.
“Tatum helps me be a better player by giving everything I can to the team and then that trickles down the line to teammates, where everyone is giving everything they have.”
Hard work and players giving everything they have was a theme for Nebraska last season, when the Huskers advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the seventh time in school history. Nebraska aims to return to Oklahoma City in 2014 and after a pair of extra-inning losses at last year’s WCWS, the Huskers hope the extra effort makes a big difference.
The twins are two of the biggest reasons Nebraska has realistic expectations to make a second straight trip to the Women’s College World Series. Taylor, the only All-America catcher in school history, earned third-team All-America accolades in 2011. Tatum took home second-team All-America honors as a pitcher/utility player in 2013. Together, they give the Huskers an All-America pitcher and catcher, a rarity only Arizona State and Nebraska can claim this season.
“We have a very unique connection when she’s pitching and I’m catching,” Taylor said. “I’ve never had that connection with anyone else. I know every level and gear she has on the mound, every body posture, how she’s feeling, her mindset and competitiveness. We are locked in together, and it’s her and I against the batter.
“It’s a very powerful feeling having her on the mound while I’m catching because I know she will get the job done no matter what. I’m always straightforward and honest with pitchers, but I don’t have to tell Tatum because she’s already correcting her mistakes without me having to tell her. We’re always on the same page.”
Softball a Part of Edwards’ Past, Present, Future
Softball has given Taylor Edwards plenty, and she plans on repaying the sport in the years to come. After all, it would be hard to give up on something that she has loved for so long.
“Softball became more than just a game when I was in 10-and-under because I could see then that I had a future in the sport I loved and still love,” she said. “I never had a specific moment of realization but I did have a feeling inside me that I wanted to compete and play against the best girls out there.”
Edwards has not only competed, but excelled against the best softball players in the nation. Before arriving at Nebraska, Edwards had already set the Inland Valley career home run record while starring at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, Calif. She had also been a three-time Under Armour High School All-American, including a nod as EA Sports’ National Junior of the Year in 2009. Edwards evened earned an invite to try out for the 2010 U.S. Women’s Junior National team just months before her college career began.
The accolades didn’t stop once Edwards stepped foot in Lincoln. In addition to tying an NCAA record just two weeks into her career, Edwards became Nebraska’s only All-America catcher in her freshman season. That year, Edwards was one of 25 finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year award and the only freshman finalist. Edwards was the only freshman position player named to an All-America team and her 18 home runs were a Nebraska freshman record, while her 67 RBIs were the most by a freshman in Big 12 Conference history.
After battling through back problems in her sophomore season, Edwards returned in a big way in the opening weekend of her junior season. Edwards was named the first Big Ten Player of the Week for the 2013 season after she hit .556 with two doubles, three homers and 15 RBIs in five games at Nebraska’s season-opening tournament. Edwards wrote herself into the NCAA record book once again on the second day of the season, when she became the fourth player in NCAA history to hit two grand slams in a game during a 14-5 victory over Illinois-Chicago. Her eight RBIs against the Flames also set a school record.
Edwards went on to earn unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honors last spring. She was one of only five players to be a unanimous All-Big Ten pick and Edwards was also named the catcher on the Big Ten All-Defensive team. She enters her senior season ranked fourth nationally among all active players with 109 career walks, fifth with 159 career RBIs and tied for eighth with 36 career home runs. Thanks to three highly productive seasons, Edwards is on pace to challenge for Nebraska career records in all three categories this season.
While Edwards is currently living in the moment while hoping to produce her best season to date this spring, she knows her softball career won’t end just because her Husker career is nearly over. Playing in the National ProFastpitch league is a possibility, but Edwards is also eager to get into coaching.
“I plan to get my master’s degree and become either a high school or college softball coach,” Edwards said of her future plans. “I chose this because I know in my heart that I don’t want to stop being around the game. I’m not ready to lose the feeling and adrenalin that it gives me.”
Husker fans will also miss the adrenalin and sense of expectation they felt every time Edwards dug into the batter’s box or rose up from her crouch to throw out a baserunner. After all, it’s never easy saying goodbye to a legend.
Three Things You Didn’t Know About Taylor
1) One of the things she fears are dinosaurs because of a recurring dream that started when she was little and still has to this day.
2) She loves animals like she loves softball. She has two cats right now named Kody and Pretty and they are her pride and joy.
3) Tatum is her best friend, and she has no idea who she is or where she would be without her.