El Dorado News-Times
Darden 'shouldering' load at shortstop
Smackover’s softball lineup was gutted by last year’s graduation. The Lady Bucks opened this season with a brand new infield, featuring new faces and a couple familiar faces in new places.
Sophomore Taylor Darden started in the outfield last year. This season, she anchors the infield at shortstop while recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I hurt it about two years ago (while) swinging. When I swung for an outside pitch, it just kind of went out. And it’s been dislocating ever since,” said Darden, who opted for surgery on her left shoulder during Christmas break.
“I’m not back fully, yet. I’m still trying to recover from it, still trying to take it easy. It feels better. I tweak it some when I’m batting.”
Through eight games, she was credited with just one error. Offensively, Darden had five hits in eight games but is 4 for her last 10 at-bats.
Coach Dennis Steele believes the offense will come. Defensively, Darden has been a stalwart for the Lady Bucks.
“The thing of it is, we’ve got a freshman at third base, a freshman at second base and she’s right between them. She’s running the defense really good,” said Steele. “She’s got a good knowledge of the game and she knows what to do with it and where to throw it. She’s always talking to those two young kids. That’s made us so much better.”
Darden feels natural in the leadership position. She chuckled when it was suggested she enjoyed telling others what to do.
“It’s going really good. I’m kind of a leader on the infield and I control everybody. I let ‘em know where to go. I’m more of the leader on the infield,” she said. “It’s pretty important because people listen to you and they’re trying to get that advice from you. You’re communicating with them.”
After a slow start, the Lady Bucks have battled back to a 5-4 record as they dive deep into conference play. After dominating the league for the past several years, Smackover could find itself in a lot more seven-inning games this season instead of the mercy-rule, three-inning affairs.
“We’re starting to get confident. We had a few changes and moved people around those first few
games since we lost all our starters last year. We've moved people to get them in the spots they're supposed to be in. I think we've kind of figured it out,” said Darden, who said the Lady Bucks' tradition of winning hasn't changed.
“We're trying to get back to where we were last year even though we can't fully have that back. We're having a lot we have to replace. It's still the same pressure because we're still wanting to win and grow better every day. Our goal is still to make it to state.”
As for her shoulder, Darden looked healthy when she made a diving catch on a pop-up behind the infield.
“I feel like I'm doing better than I thought I was. I'm still not a hundred percent but I'm at a higher percentage than I thought I would be.”