Taylor Pleasants Is A Game-Changer For LSU
Some players just have it from the very start of their college softball careers. LSU shortstop Taylor Pleasants is one of those players.
Pleasants, now a redshirt sophomore for the Tigers and a member of Team USA, has established herself as an essential bat in the Tigers' lineup. Finally getting the chance to play an entire season with LSU in 2021, the Houston native hit .316 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI, en route to collecting the SEC Newcomer of the Year award.
Her success came as no surprise to her teammates, including redshirt junior pitcher Ali Kilponen.
"When Taylor stepped on campus, we all knew that she was going to be an impact player," Kilponen said. "She is a beast hitting-wise, but she's also a beast in the field. She has kind of stepped in and took over (for) Amber Serrett, which is a hard position and a hard person to replace, but she did a really good job with it."
Having seniors like Amanda Doyle, Maribeth Gorsuch and Aliyah Andrews helped Pleasants find her role on the team once she arrived in Baton Rouge.
"They were such a good example of what being an LSU Tiger needs to look like," she said. "It's so easy to just look over your shoulder and be like, 'Okay, that's what I'm supposed to be doing.' I think they did a great job of that. Relationship-wise, they made it a point to come and talk to me and be like, 'We're teammates now, we're equal.' I think it was cool to have them by my side through it all."
In 2020, Pleasants began making an immediate impact, hitting .383 before the pandemic canceled the rest of the season. While at home during the shutdown, Pleasants had to get creative to get ready for 2021. She played in scrimmages set up by coaches in the area.
The layoff only benefitted Pleasants, however, with the scrimmages helping her get at-bats. The shutdown also made her a better leader, as Kilponen noticed the difference with Pleasants taking on more of a leadership role by running practices and helping the incoming freshmen.
"There's nothing like having Taylor Pleasants as a teammate," Kilponen said. "She's one of the people I always look behind and always talk to no matter if I didn't like the pitch call or if I missed a pitch. We would both just look and laugh at each other. She's just my biggest supporter on and off the field. There's nobody I would rather look behind and have behind my back."
Her impact in the batter's box during the middle part of the season was one of the reasons that the Tigers advanced to yet another NCAA Tournament in 2021. Pleasants tells Softball America that her success during that stretch resulted from her finding herself as a player and finding her strengths as a hitter.
"I was able to find out who I am on the field and for this team," Pleasants said. "Everybody brings something different, but what do you need to bring that day? And I feel like I found that, and it made me a lot more confident in myself."
Once the postseason began, Pleasants' production didn't stop, as she provided big hits throughout LSU's run, including home runs in the winner-take-all game of the Baton Rouge Regional against Louisiana and in Game 2 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional against Florida State.
"I think it helps you when you've done it before. You can do it again," Pleasants said. "You've done it before, so you can help someone else do it. It's a cool experience to have as an individual, but more importantly, as a team. You get to do it for other people."