BOULDER — The weeks are winding down for Taylor Gilmore and Linnie Malkin to be the softball-smashing duo people have become well familiar with. From the diamond at Broomfield High where they represented the Eagles, to the days and nights travelling with the Colorado Stars club team, the pair have made their mark on the state's softball scene.
Before representing the Centennial State on a bigger stage as college athletes next year — Gilmore at the University of Arizona and Malkin at the University of Arkansas — the summer of 2017 will be known as their last rodeo together.
They're making sure to enjoy every minute of it — including this week as they are playing in the Boulder Independence Day 18U tournament right in their own backyard.
"It's our last one together so we really just want to make it the best," said Malkin, who was recently named Colorado's Gatorade player of the year after helping the Eagles to the Class 5A state championship game last fall.
"We've known each other since we were like 4 years old, and it's just been fun and such a blessing to have her at third base," Gilmore said. "She's a good friend and a good teammate, so it's been a really good time for sure. It's coming to an end, but we hope to be playing against each other at some point."
After graduating high school and having already sewn up college destinations, the pair could easily have gone their separate ways and joined one of the many other club teams around. In staying with the Stars for this final summer, though, they showed a certain dedication to the program and to each other that has already added to the list of potentially long-lasting memories.
For many of the athletes playing in the Boulder IDT, being seen by college coaches and recruiters is the main attraction. For Gilmore and Malkin, the tournament at least this year represents getting a chance to see a ton of other Division I-caliber players doing their thing and getting primed for their big move up.
"The environment of the Stars is just fun, and the team and the coaches are fun, and we go out of state and play the best competition possible," said Gilmore, who threw 143 innings and had all 22 wins as the Eagles' pitcher last fall. "That type of competition prepares us and there's only a few teams that can say they do that. I think both of us feel the same."
"(Head coach) Dan (Burns) has a lot of connections and he is always putting us up against the toughest teams, and that pushes us to get ready for the next level," said Malkin, who hit .603 her senior season at BHS.
A diverse team filled with several 2017 graduates like Malkin and Gilmore, the Stars Gold are hoping to make a run in the 18U Boulder bracket starting Saturday in what will be Burns' last run in the third-base coach's box.
It has been an up-and-down tournament since Wednesday's event-opening win against the Florida Gators Gold, but they wrapped up pool play on Friday with a 3-2 walk-off win over the New Lenox (Ill.) Lightning that helped them finish 2-3-1 in Pool B play and earn the fifth of eight seeds.
Gilmore got the win after coming on in relief with a 2-1 deficit, and Malkin went 2-for-2 with a walk and one RBI in the Friday morning game at the Mapleton Ballfields. The pair batted back-to-back and made it unsettling for a Lightning team looking to score an upset.
"We want to do well for coach and we want to go out with a bang, and hopefully we can do that starting at this tournament," Gilmore said after the win. "We just need to simplify the game a bit and have fun. That's our philosophy right now."