ROWLAND — With three straight years of first-round playoff losses, the South Robeson softball team entered this year’s 1A state tournament looking to avenge their post-season demons and take out a team with a better record.
Seven innings later, an emotional Taylor Jacobs came off the field after pitching the Mustangs to a 14-9 upset against Pender.
“She pitched one of the best games she had pitched,” said South Robeson coach Donnie Carter. “Then for us to come from behind and win and to see her reaction. She cried. She knew that was the first time in school history that we had been to the second round. It’s all because of Taylor and what she brought to the team and getting her teammates to play with her.”
When talking with Carter about Jacobs, he can’t say enough about the graduate.
“She’s going to be hard to replace. I don’t know if we will replace her,” he said “She’s been a leader on and off the field, in the classroom, a very good student. A person of very high character who works hard all the time and those types of individuals are hard to replace.”
That high character has helped Jacob’s earn a place on not only her fourth All-County team, but also Robeson County Player of the Year honors.
“It feels great,” Jacobs said. “Pitching this long and then getting this award feels really good and then after all the hard work coming up to this senior year, it makes me feel really good.”
Taylor was a leader on a team with a youthful core, with sophomores taking places up and down the lineup, which proved for a shaky start to the year.
“We started out a little rough but we came together more as a team,” she said. “We had a lot of new people, newcomers that were young.
“I think they had my back really good this season.”
It was an up and down season for the Mustangs, with no periods of prolonged success or disappointment, and in the end, Jacobs posted an 11-15 record with 129 strikeouts, bringing her four-year career total to 520.
It’s in those numbers that coach Carter says she really bloomed the most.
“She grew in understanding of, ‘this is the pitch I want to throw, this is how I want to set this batter up,’” he said “She really started calling her own pitches and doing good things on the field that took responsibility off me and off her pitching coach.”
As for Jacobs, the biggest piece of the season she saw was the growth in her leadership skills on the field.
“When I came here as a freshman I was really, I don’t want to say immature, but I didn’t see things as you see it when you get older,” Jacobs said. “How what you do reflects on everyone else on the team.”
With her skills as a player and her leadership on and off the field, Jacobs’ spot will be hard to fill but Carter is proud of what she did for the program.
“Taylor started bearing the load in the pitching circle as a freshman,” he said. “So we started to get to that next level when she walked in the door. I mean it started before, but Taylor sort of cemented it when she walked in the door.”
The season essentially marks the end of Jacobs’ softball career. While she will play in some tournaments, her focus will be on studying radiography at Robeson Community College.
While the career is over, the memories of her final season and career with the Mustangs will be something she carries with her for a long time.
“The whole season was great,” Jacobs said, while fighting tears. “Being with coach Carter longer than four years, and then being with my best friends and playing and playing on the team, it wasn’t just one moment that was good, it was the whole season.”