Stanford's Taylor Gindlesperger Embracing Sophomore Success
Taylor Gindlesperger’s brother told her it’d be a moment she’d remember for the rest of her life.
Gindlesperger stood in the box at Smith Family Stadium, sitting at a combined 0-for-7 in the Cardinal’s doubleheader against Seattle on Feb. 13. Stanford was locked in a tie in the bottom of the 10th inning before Gindlesperger lifted her second collegiate home run for the walk-off win.
“I still can’t believe it. That was such a cool moment,” Gindlesperger told Softball America during a phone interview. “It’s just such a cool thing to do as a sophomore, especially after a year like last year when I don’t think things went how I wanted them to.”
The sophomore outfielder is in the midst of a breakout campaign. Last year, Gindlesperger appeared in 42 games but struggled, having finished the season with a .167 average and only one extra-base hit in 78 at-bats.
Thus far in 2020, she has become an important part of the Cardinal lineup. Doing most of her work from the two-spot in the order, Gindlesperger is currently batting .377 and is producing more hits and RBI than she did all of last season.
She says the change hasn't been physical.
“I’ve gotten more prepared mentally,” Gindlesperger said. “Last year, I think I was a little too much in my head. This year, I’ve started to understand it’s just softball. I’ve played it my whole life. I just need to stay calm and have confidence in myself.”
The game’s mental aspect has been instilled by the Stanford coaching staff, led by Jessica Allister. According to Allister, the experience from Gindlesperger’s freshman year was her best teacher.
“The game is a great teacher of the mental skillset,” Allister told Softball America during a phone interview. “You’ve got to be mentally tough to compete at this level, especially in the box. We practice it in practice because it’s a game of recovery.”
Allister isn’t surprised about the jump in year two for Gindlesperger. She says it was only a matter of time before her mindset synced up with her physical gifts.
“There’s a couple of things. I think the most is she gained a lot of valuable experience last year,” Allister said. “The maturity with which she’s approaching her offensive game this year is impressive. Hitting is hard. It’s a skill of failure and that failure will eat you alive if you let it. She learned that hard lesson last year. This year, we’re seeing the type of ball player we knew she could be.”
Coming into the final week of February, Gindlesperger is the only Stanford hitter in the team’s top four in terms of average who is an underclassman. The others? Seniors Hannah Howell, Teaghan Cowles and Kristina Inouye. The Cardinal have a balanced lineup between experience and youth, but it’s promising to see an early bloomer in Gindlesperger.
“A big chunk of our team are seniors. I think they’ve all been here for all of us no matter what is going on,” Gindlesperger said. “Personally, I go to Kiana (Pancino) a lot for things I need help with, whether mental or with school. All of them really stepped up as leaders, which is awesome.”
The connection from top to bottom, regardless of age, has helped the Cardinal embody the gritty nature they’ve shown so far throughout the season. Of Stanford’s 13 wins so far this year, five have been walk-off victories.
“We never feel like we’re out of the game,” Gindlesperger said. “I haven't felt like we wouldn’t win a game so far this year. We have confidence and we’ll do whatever it takes to stick it out and get the win.”