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For Western, Taylor Apple is the apple of team’s eye

 Warriors’ pitching ace, slugger delivers in big ways

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Western senior pitcher Taylor Apple

SHE LOVES THE PRESSURE:  “I love it all being on my shoulders, I guess you could say. I like the pressure. It’s kind of like all on you, but I love it.”

– Western’s senior pitcher Taylor Apple

Taylor Apple might dabble in a few activities other than softball.

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But not much, really. There’s a reason that works out for the Western Alamance senior pitcher.

“I love doing it,” Apple said. “I love it all being on my shoulders, I guess you could say. I like the pressure. It’s kind of like all on you, but I love it.”

Apple has helped send the Warriors to the Class 3-A East Regional finals.

While delivering no-hitters almost seems like the norm, Apple has come through in the pitching circle and at the plate.

“[Taylor Apple’s] a beast. She puts in the work off the field and on the field, and it shows.”

– Western softball coach Scott Bell

“She’s a beast,” Western coach Scott Bell said. “She puts in the work off the field and on the field, and it shows.”

The third-seeded Warriors (20-3) will play a best-of-3 regional final against fourth-seeded South Johnston this week, beginning with Game 1 at home (probably on Tuesday). The series winner advances to the state championship.

Apple turned in Western’s eighth consecutive shutout by striking out 14 batters as the Warriors blew past host Scotland County 12-0 on Friday night.

The supporting cast is right there with Apple, who’s signed to pitch for East Carolina when her high school days are done.

“We know we have to back her up,” Western first baseman Kara Alday said. “It can’t be all Taylor.”

For Apple, it’s almost all softball.

“Life is circled around softball. Ever since I’ve was about 7, that’s how it has always been. It’s kind of what everything is centered around. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

– Western pitcher Taylor Apple

“Go to school, practice softball, homework. Go to bed and do it again, I guess,” Apple said.

“Life is circled around softball. Ever since I’ve was about 7, that’s how it has always been. It’s kind of what everything is centered around. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

So there’s really no offseason for Apple.

“The wintertime, I hunt, fish. Go to the beach in the summer some,” she said. “But most of it is centered around softball. I have to leave there to go to softball, (go) from softball to there.”

Bell has witnessed the commitment from Apple since she was a youth player. He’s aware of the time she devotes to the sport.

“She puts the work in,” he said. “That’s the type of things from her you don’t see.”

Apple was a manager for the middle school team as a sixth grader. She has been in uniform ever since.

Yet her freshman season was limited to six games because the rest of the 2020 season was cancelled amid the Covid pandemic. Restrictions the next year meant teams played reduced schedules.

Apple has been the primary pitcher for the Warriors for four seasons, missing just a couple of outings because of a biceps strain last spring. She has pitched in every game this year, recording 305 strikeouts in 142 innings.

 

“She’s just a really good teammate. She always picks us up.”

– Western softball teammate Kara Alday

At the plate, her 21 career home runs put her first in the school’s record books in that category.

This season, Apple’s .597 batting average, 11 home runs, 10 doubles and 41 runs batted in are all team-high marks.

“She’s just a really good teammate,” Alday said. “She always picks us up.”

Clearly, Apple’s impact is widespread.

“It’s just something easy to fall in love with,” she said. “That feeling whenever you do something really big – strike out (a batter), make like the game-winning play, walk it off. It’s just a really good feeling to have. I just kind of fell in love with the feeling of all of that.”

She has spent weeks in summers with the Lady Lightning Gold travel team. Not by surprise, there will be more to come with that group.

“Last summer, we went to Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Georgia, Florida,” she said. “And this summer, we’re doing it all again.”

Before that, Apple would like to help the Warriors to repeat some of their recent success as the postseason winds down. They ended second-seeded Scotland County’s 11-game winning streak.

Western is four victories away from securing a state championship.

Apple, 18, committed to East Carolina in November 2021 and signed with the Pirates this past fall. She said she’ll major in business or sports studies.

Taylor Apple in East Carolina regalia last fall in preparation for enrollment there this fall.

“I can’t wait. I’m actually kind of nervous,” Apple said. “But if it’s anything like it is here, I’m going to love it. And from what I’ve seen, it is.”

Taylor Apple (#13) holding trophy with teammates after tournament win earlier this month.

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