Softball: Byron’s O’Donnell has come through again and again ... and again

May 19, 2019

Jacob Harmon says Taylor O’Donnell is an outstanding student and athlete.

But even O’Donnell – a two-sport standout at Byron High School, whose GPA hovers near 4.0 – would have a difficult time calculating the odds of her accomplishments late last week and early this week.

“Did we expect her to do that?” Harmon, the head softball coach at Byron, asked. “No. I don’t think anyone could even wish for that. It’s pretty crazy what she’s done.”

A week ago, O’Donnell had a weekend that she and her teammates will remember for years to come .

And the .440 hitter – who leads Byron in nearly every offensive category – has carried her hot hitting into this week.

“As a coach, you just keep thinking that sooner or later it will catch up with her,” Harmon said. “But she’s stayed hot and hopefully she continues that into next week in the (Section 1AA) playoffs.”

O’Donnell’s remarkable stretch started on May 10 in Byron’s 5-4 victory at home against Lake City. The speedy senior went 4-for-4 in the game, delivering her biggest hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, a three-run triple that turned a 4-2 Bears’ deficit into a dramatic and emotional 5-4 victory.

Less than 24 hours later, O’Donnell was back at it.

She went 3-for-4 against Plainview-Elgin-Millville. She again came to bat in the seventh with the Bears trailing. She calmly belted a three-run home run to turn a deficit into a 6-5 victory. In the Bears’ second game of the day, against Dover-Eyota, O’Donnell came to the plate in a nearly identical situation – the score tied in the bottom of the seventh.

“There were 2 runners on, we all noticed it was the same situation,” she said. “I could hear people in the dugout saying ‘oh, Taylor’s up to bat!’ But it was different because we only needed one run to win, unlike the first game.

“I just told myself ‘get a base hit, bring that runner in from second.’ Then I wondered ‘what if it could happen again? That would be pretty surreal.’ Then when it did happen, it was pretty crazy.”

Her coach said he’s never seen a stretch quite as improbable as O’Donnell’s.

“You can hear on the videos that people took of it, ‘oh my gosh! She did it again!’ “ Harmon said. “It is unbelievable … to do it twice in the same day, same situation. It’s also a testament to her teammates for getting on base and giving Taylor a chance to do that.”

Beyond her heroics, O’Donnell said she’s just happy that her team is winning and playing its best as it heads into the playoffs. The Bears are 10-7 overall after Friday’s 25-0 win against Kenyon-Wanamingo. They have won six of their past seven games and are gaining confidence with every victory.

Byron, the No. 3 seed in Section 1AA West, hosts No. 6 seed Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland at 5 p.m. Monday in a first-round playoff game. The loser’s season is over, the winner advances to face either Triton or Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday.”

“At the start of the season, we had some ups and downs, but over the past few weeks we’ve been cleaning up the errors and having better at-bats,” said O’Donnell, who has four home runs and nine extra-base hits this season. “We’re working hard at everything and the past week has been a really high point for the team and for me. Hopefully we can carry this momentum through to the playoffs.

“Personally I’m just more confident at the plate, take a deep breath right before I go up, just relax. Batting leadoff I just want to get on base and help my team out however I can.”

Harmon said O’Donnell has grown significantly as a leader over the past year and she has been a stabilizing force for Byron’s five seniors, as well as all of its younger players.

“Great kid,” Harmon said. “I love having her around. I’ve coached her since she was an eighth-grader. We know each other well. I can really get after her and push her, has that mental toughness. She’s a very fun player to coach.”

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