Taylor Morales spent the last four years sharpening her softball talents at University High while making sure her name was remembered in Peoria, Ill.
U-Hi’s first-team, all-Greater Spokane League returner has a connection to Bradley University in Peoria thanks to her big sister, Alexa.
Current Bradley softball coach Amy Hayes recruited Alexa to play at Portland State before accepting the Braves’ job.
“I’m five years younger than my sister, so my parents told me to keep in contact with (Hayes) as I slowly moved up in age groups,” Morales said.
Morales’ strategy paid off and she signed a letter of intent with Bradley in November.
Alexa and brother Andres attended Central Valley, but Taylor decided her heart belonged to U-Hi. She admired the style of Jon Schuh, who enters his 15th season as Titans softball coach with five league titles and 10 state tournament appearances under his belt.
“I really enjoyed the way he handled the team,” said Morales, who has moved from second base to shortstop this year. “And the girls were so well-disciplined.”
Octavio and Diana Morales gave Taylor their blessings to attend U-Hi.
“My parents were very supportive,” Morales said. “They believed that if I wanted to better myself as a softball player that I should do what I wanted.”
Morales’ decision coincided with the improvement of CV’s program under coach Joe Stanton. The Bears tied North Central for the GSL title last year, one game ahead of U-Hi, and advanced to the State 4A tournament for the second consecutive season. U-Hi played in the State 3A semifinals last year and placed fourth.
“CV had a great season last year and I think what Stanton’s doing, he’s doing a great job,” Morales said.
Morales, born in Fort Collins, Colo., started playing softball in second grade, well after the family had moved to Spokane. Her interest in the sport grew as she watched her sister play in tournaments.
“When you first start something it takes time to develop, but I was told when I was little that I had some natural ability,” Morales said. “I always loved it and always wanted to play.”
“She’s been a softball kid since she was little,” Schuh said. “She’s a student of game, not afraid to work hard, and a great student, very smart. She’s just a great kid, let alone a great athlete.”
Morales played the last five summers for the Spokane Mudhens, coached by her father and Schuh. Matt Connor is now assisting Octavio as Schuh has stepped down.
Morales’ parents made it clear that grades come ahead of softball. She carries a 3.97 grade-point average and is strong in calculus and science-based classes.
She doesn’t know what she’ll study at Bradley, but she vows to work hard at her academics – and her hitting – to earn the opportunity for playing time in the Braves’ middle infield.
“She has it in her genes,” Schuh said. “And she’s really a humble kid.”