For the past four seasons, Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks has been a cornerstone of Timberline High School’s softball team.
She’s been one of the more dominant pitchers in the lower South Sound throughout her high school career, and appreciates the responsibility that comes with that. Really, she welcomes it.
“I kind of thrive under pressure,” she said. “It brings out my full potential.”
Taylor-Sparks, a senior who is approaching 200 strikeouts this season, knows pitching drives the game of softball.
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And the dominant left-handed ace will be who the Blazers look to this weekend, as they try to reach the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 2008.
“I think the team we have this year can get there, and she will certainly be a catalyst at districts for us,” Timberline coach Charles Porche said.
Timberline (14-8) opens against Lakes (6-9) at 10 a.m. Friday at Sprinker Recreation Center in Tacoma in the first round of the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament.
Taylor-Sparks — who is a 3A South Sound Conference first-team selection, and was an Olympian All-Area selection as a junior — is ready.
“We haven’t made it to state the past three years,” she said. “We’ve either been (knocked) out in league, or the first round of districts, so I’m hoping to make it to state.”
Right now, that dream is just two wins away, and begins with playing the Lancers, who Timberline hammered, 12-2, two months ago in their season-opener.
Taylor-Sparks (11-7) struck out 16 of the 23 batters she faced in that game, and has hardly slowed down since.
She shut out Shelton earlier this season, and threw a no-hitter against Central Kitsap.
“I just always have a smile on my face on the mound,” Taylor-Sparks said. “I focus, but I have fun pitching.
“I like throwing strikes, I like when my infield gets outs, I like striking people out. I just like everything.”
Taylor-Sparks has 197 strikeouts so far this season, averaging 8.5 per game, and is likely to reach the 200 mark Friday morning.
She has 535 career strikeouts at Timberline, and Porche said her strikeouts per season have increased each year.
“As a pitcher, I’ve improved a lot,” Taylor-Sparks said. “I work a lot on spin and movement. I think that’s mainly the reason why my strikeouts have gone up.”
Taylor-Sparks has grown as a pitcher each year, Porche said, and has increased velocity and movement since her freshman season. She’s said she’s been clocked as high as 64 mph.
“She’s one of the faster pitchers we face,” Yelm coach Lindsay Walton said. “She’s jut a good left-handed pitcher.”
Taylor-Sparks throws six pitches — a fastball, change-up, drop ball, curveball, screwball and rise ball — and has compiled a respectable 1.82 ERA so far this season in 119 innings.
She’s signed to play at Stanislaus State in Turlock, California, next season and said she hopes to continue expanding her game.
“I definitely want to get more spin on my pitches, more break, and I’m hoping to get at least 1-2 mph. faster,” she said.
That’s a summer goal, though.
Taylor-Sparks is still hoping for a state tournament berth this spring, and said she thinks she can help take the Blazers there as long as she stays poised in the circle.
“She’s been here for four years,” Porche said. “She’s the only senior we have that has played varsity all four years. I think they do look to her for that leadership and experience.”