LONGMONT — After playing three varsity softball seasons at Longmont High, transfer center fielder Taylor Nielsen will have to switch allegiances when she plays for cross-town rival Silver Creek next season.
Battling no internal dilemma this week, however, Nielsen is focused on defending Colorado's reputation for quality softball against some of the top club programs from a number of the nation's most reputable hotbeds.
Wednesday during Pool W action on Day 2 of the 16-under tournament at the Boulder Independence Day Tournament, Nielsen went 4 for 6 with two home runs and five RBIs to pace the Colorado Stars to a pair of wins over the Wichita Mustangs and the Houston Power. Even after going 0 for 3 in a 4-4 tie with the Corona Angels from California Thursday morning, Nielsen was proud of the way she and her teammates had represented their state.
"We're playing a lot of really good teams from all around the country and since we're a Colorado team, everyone thinks we're not as good," Nielsen said. "So we just come out and play our hardest, and we're having a lot of fun too. We don't always get as much exposure and we don't get to play year-round so when we get out there, we really focus and that's paying off so far."
As a junior at Longmont last season, Nielsen batted .433 with 13 RBIs and 35 runs scored. Transferring for her senior year, the talented defensive outfielder will no doubt be a welcome boon to a Raptors program that went 19-5 in 2016 and reached the Class 4A quarterfinals. Still uncommitted to play in college, Nielsen's performance at the plate and play in center field so far in this year's Boulder IDT have also undoubtedly helped her stock since over 300 collegiate coaches and recruiters attend the showcase annually.
Nielsen wasn't the only BoCoPreps.com-area player who is raising her stock at this summer's Boulder IDT, either. Three players representing prep programs at Longmont, Silver Creek and Broomfield nearly teamed up to win Thursday morning's game for the Stars.
Tied 4-4 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, soon-to-be Broomfield junior Jenna Eatmon singled and was subsequently bunted up to second base by Silver Creek rising junior Kayla Harper. With two outs, Nielsen hit a hard line drive that for a moment appeared to be the game-winning hit but unfortunately tracked right to the Angels center fielder for the final out. Both Eatmon and Harper had hits in the game.
"It's nice because we have a bunch of local girls," Nielsen said. "It's fun to play with a bunch of BoCo girls who I play against in high school and now I get to play with them."
The Stars lost to the Houston Power later Thursday afternoon and will enter Friday's third day of pool play with a 2-1-1 record. The Stars will play California-based The Next Level at 8 a.m.
"We have played well," Stars head coach Scott Sakamoto said. "We're playing some really good teams so it's always nice to be able to compete with them. For us, we travel seven times and we've competed pretty well here in the past, so hopefully that experience will help us keep it going."