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Former Eaglette leaves mark at WKU after stellar career

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 at 10:27 pm

Taylor Sanders is playing with the Chattanooga Stream professional softball team this summer. (Submitted photo)

Former Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglette Taylor Sanders receives the home run ball she hit to set the school record this past season at Western Kentucky by coach Amy Tudor. (Submitted photo)

Sports Writer
Former Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglette softball standout Taylor Sanders recently finished her collegiate career at Western Kentucky University and to say that she left a legacy would be an understatement.
Sanders broke a number of all-time records for the Lady Hilltoppers and she was a five-year starter after getting another year due to COVID.
“I broke four records at WKU this past season. Single Season Home Runs (17), WKU Career Home Runs Record (48), WKU Career RBI Record (184), and I broke my own record which was Single Season RBI Record (56),” Sanders said. “I left a legacy at WKU and I am just so proud of everyone who helped me accomplish these records as well as myself for remaining resilient despite all of the unfortunate things that happened to me throughout my career.
She did have a number of setbacks throughout her career at Western but her resilience and determination can never be questioned. Out of 231 career games in the five years at WKU, she played in 191.
“I only played two full seasons at WKU but was a 5-year starter,” Sanders said. “My freshman year COVID-19 cut our season short. My sophomore year I played 31 games and missed the others due to dislocating both of my shoulders. My junior year I played the entire season but one game my senior year I played 33 games and missed the rest due to a broken arm. My fifth season I was fortunate to play the entire schedule.” Sanders said.
This past season was a year she will never forget.
“What a ride this past season was at Western Kentucky. Last year, my season got cut short due to an injury, so it was super important to me that I picked up right where I left off. I had my third shoulder surgery of my career this past summer that left me out of the lineup in the fall season, so I went to work over winter break to be able to be ready to go as soon as we got back in January,” Sanders said.
“I was selected on the preseason all-conference team, along with a few other teammates.”
This past season Western picked up some impressive wins over Ole Miss and NC State. There were strong in conference play which resulted in finishing second in the league heading into the conference tournament.
They had a heartbreaker ending in the championship game in the conference tournament, which ended their season.
“We finished 33-20-1 on the year. I was so proud of the fight and heart our team had throughout the season. We struggled at the beginning of conference play a little with communication and just trusting in each other. Our motto turned into “We play for each other. You got me and I got you.” We were able to come together and play for each other towards the middle/end of the season, and that really made coming back for my fifth year worth it to me,” Sanders said.
“I played for the 20 girls around me and for our university. It was just so fun to watch everyone else around me have that same mentality and buy into what us leaders were trying to express to our entire team. The friendships I made will go further than the softball field and I am so grateful to have such special girls in my life,” she added.
“I received preseason all-conference for the first time in my career and I was genuinely shocked. As I previously mentioned, I had a season ending injury (broken arm) so I did not expect any recognition and honestly I did not care if I got it. But when I did I felt like all of my hard work was noticed despite something unfortunate happening to me. I was awarded conference player of the week two times this past season with the second being awarded to me on my senior weekend. That was so special to me and something I will never forget. I received First Team All-Conference, All-Tournament Team, and Second Team All-Region.
Western Kentucky, under the guidance of former Cornersville native, Amy Tudor has become an outstanding softball program.
“Playing at WKU is not for the weak. We train harder and longer than most programs. The expectation is to be great, not just good. I remember several times sitting in Coach T’s office and her telling me “Sanders, you have crazy talent, and you are a good player. But you can be great by working harder.” And that really stuck with me. Talent only gets you so far,” Sanders said.
“It is the people who push you and how you respond that transforms you into the best version of yourself. At WKU, we work hard for what we have. Nothing was ever handed to us. After 25 years, we had the privilege of having a brand new indoor facility and video scoreboard this year. This changed everything for our program and how we trained for the better. Without the commitment that was instilled in everyone who put on a WKU jersey, it would not have been possible. It is up to those who will wear the jersey to continue the expectations and I am confident that they will. WKU is a program that has fighters. We do not lay down. We are dead soldiers fighting. When people count us out, we laugh because we know what it means to be a Hilltopper. And you have to be a Hilltopper to know what being a Hilltopper means.”
Her career at Western has truly been a life changing experience.
“I came in as an immature freshman that thought she knew everything. Little did I know that I knew nothing at all. The upperclassmen in my undergraduate years taught us all the ropes in their own way. We have read several books as a team throughout my career and in the earlier parts we read Legacy. We learned how to sweep the sheds for everyone and how to be a servant leader. I would recommend that book to any program that wants to take their team to the next level,” Sanders said.
“Taylor is a player we thought could be an impact player for us when we signed her and she proved to be that and much more. She helped us on both offense and defense,” Tudor said.
“Throughout my career there have been some bumps with some teammates, but we all put everything aside once we stepped in between the white lines and that is what it is all about. We do not get to choose the people we play with, but we get to choose how we work together and how to represent our university. I can say overall I feel that every team I was on in my five years represented our university with class and dignity. I was pushed past limits I never thought I could go to. I was challenged daily to be the best person and player I could possibly be. I will forever be grateful for John, our strength coach, for believing in me when I did not believe in myself, Coach T and Coach K for always pushing me to be great, and every trainer I had as well as Nathan, our physical therapist, for trying their best to keep me as healthy as possible. The decision I made to play at Western was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I owe everything to WKU. I developed into a better person, teammate, and friend. My family loves WKU so much they all feel like they went there too. It is so sad that I will not be wearing those letters as a softball player anymore, but I will proudly continue to wear those letters as an alumnus.”
Her softball career is not over. She will be playing professionally this summer with the Chattanooga Stream.
“The opportunity to play pro for Chattanooga Steam was presented to me during the season. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play softball after college so I never even took the time to look into it. It was not until Chattanooga Steam approached me that I thought that could be possible for me. When you play for a mid-major school these opportunities do not come often, so I really sat with it and talked with my parents and decided to give it a go,” Sanders said.
“I want to help grow the game of softball however I can. What better way of doing that than playing at the professional level. It shows little girls from Shelbyville that if you work hard and remain resilient, you can achieve anything you want. I have the privilege of having great parents and two awesome sisters that push me to take opportunities that the Lord presents to me. So I am doing this for me and for every little girl that has dreams of playing softball at the highest level possible.”

Taylor Sanders career highlights:
–        Batting .332/.430/.692 with 48 home runs and 184 RBIs
–        7x Conference USA Player of the Week
–        2022 Second Team All-Conference
–        2022 All-Tournament Team
–        2022 Third Team All-Region
–        2024 Preseason All-Conference
–        2024 First Team All-Conference
–        2024 All-Tournament Team
–        2024 Second Team All-Region
–        Single Season RBI Leader
–        Single Season Homerun Leader
–        WKU Career Homeruns Leader
–        WKU Career RBIs Leader