Missouri's softball history has featured many strong teams and great players. And Rhea Taylor might be the greatest of all.
No. 1: C/IF Maddison Ruggeberg
No. 2: OF/P/C Lisa Simmons
No. 3: 3B/OF Nicole Hudson
No. 4: 1B/OF Marla Schweisberger
No. 5: 1B/OF Ashley Fleming
No. 6: C/1B Catherine Lee
No. 7: SS Jenna Marston
No. 8: P Kristin Nottelmann
No. 9: P Chelsea Thomas
From the MUtigers.com Bio:
Led the Big 12 and set a new single season Missouri record with her .452 batting average, which was the ninth-highest in the country. Averaged 0.79 stolen bases per game, the fifth-best in the NCAA. Scored 1.05 runs per game, 14th most in the country. Recorded the third-most triples (eight) in the NCAA. Tied own single-season record with 64 runs scored. Her 85 hits were the second-highest most in a season at Missouri, three shy of the record she set back in 2008. Posted the seventh-best slugging percentage in a season (.718), while her eight triples are tied for the eighth-highest in a season at Mizzou. Stole 48 bases, second most in a season and nine shy of her record of 57. ... Honors: Women's College World Series All-Tournament Team, Third Team All-American, First Team All-Midwest Region, All-Big 12 Tournament Team, First Team All-Big 12, USA Softball College Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List, USA Softball College Player of the Year Top 25.
The Beef: Is it possible that a nationally-lauded player like Rhea Taylor could still be underrated? I think it is. Taylor has been an impact player for the Tigers since her first days on campus, having never batted below .400 from the leadoff spot in three seasons. But as Coach E likes to point out, Taylor has been continually improving and broadening her game to where this may be the first season where she is truly a complete hitter and, perhaps, the best in the country. She hit over .450 last year, but started to do so with power. As mentioned previously, you just don’t know where to play her as an infielder, and that is the scariest feeling to have. Respect her power and she'll lay down a roller in front of you; play up to take away her speed, and she'll scorch a ball at your head. If she does have a weakness, it might be her eye and plate discipline. She struck out only 30 times last season in 61 games, but walked only 13 times. Considering a walk is almost an automatic double for all-time Mizzou stolen bases leader (a record she set last season as a junior), I’d love to see Taylor take a few more pitches and put even more pressure on the pitcher. That said, I really do believe Rhea Taylor should receive first-team All-American honors at the end of the season.
Tepper's Unsubstantiated but Totally Factual Fun Fact: (Code Name: Blur) Rhea Taylor was once ticketed for speeding. When she argued with the officer that she was on foot and thus could not be charged with speeding, the officer retorted that he "didn't appreciate her sass." After ten more seconds, the officer relented, tore up the ticket and appreciated her sass.
Mizzou's season starts tomorrow in the San Diego Classic. They play Fresno State at 1:30 PM CT.