Taylor Watkins stepped onto Ohio State’s softball fields as a freshman four years ago with a specific mindset.
The former Bonney Lake High star had a mission when she became a Buckeye: make her there time count.
It’s an attitude Watkins developed from a lifetime of competing — going all out and expecting nothing but the best from herself when she stepped onto any ball field. At Bonney Lake, Watkins was incredible in earning two Class 3A SPSL most valuable player awards in the only two seasons she played for the Panthers.
Watkins has been a different beast while at Ohio State. Putting up great numbers in high school is one thing, but setting records in Division I softball, on a historically strong program, is another entirely.
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"It feels good to have been able to come in as a freshman and help the team right away," said Watkins via phone last week from Columbus, Ohio. "I came in expecting to start as a freshman, and I worked hard to keep my spot."
From that point forward, Watkins was entrenched in Ohio State’s outfield while hitting toward the top of the batting order. She’s since established herself as one of the program’s greatest softball players.
The career numbers speak for themselves. Watkins currently ranks seventh in RBIs (124), eighth in home runs (19), third in hits (231) and walks (84), and is ninth in batting average (.339). Watkins is also four runs shy of Ohio State’s runs scored record (168), set by Alicia Herron (2009-2012).
Watkins has scored 164 runs heading into Wednesday’s season finale against Indiana University.
She wanted her stay to be historic. And through her hard work, Watkins’ senior season has all the numbers to make her final season with the Buckeyes just that. No pressure, right?
"Not really — I told myself that this year not to think about breaking the school records," she said. "I just wanted to go out and play as many games as I could."
Every girl who plays softball as a childhood dreams of accomplishing everything Watkins has in her life. It’s a tireless effort these athletes put forth that the Buckeye senior remembers fondly.
After all, softball comes back to being a game.
"It just goes to show how much work we put in when we were younger," Watkins said. "When you love the game, you just want to come out and play … I’ve worked hard to reach this point in my career, and many of the girls who have come into Ohio State have done the same."
If you play in a conference such as the Big 10, you’ve made it in any sport. It’s a lifetime dream that got Watkins to where she is, but that hard work didn’t just end there. Now, as a senior, Watkins’ role has changed. As the numbers pile up, it’s about no longer about reaching her personal goals. Those will take care of themselves, she believes.
No, it’s about what’s next for a Buckeye program — it’s about making sure the future is set, and that the younger players on Ohio State understand what it takes to be a Buckeye playing in the Big 10.
But the message Watkins leaves her teammates goes beyond the diamond.
"I came in this year wanting to show that you can be whoever you can be, and you can do anything you put your mind to," Watkins said. "I wanted to show them what it means to be a Buckeye. Not just in softball."
What other way could Watkins live by as a person who expects nothing but the best from herself? It’s an attitude that has been downright historical.