Perfection, twice over: Michigan softball pitcher Jordan Taylor throws another perfect game
After Jordan Taylor threw her first perfect game earlier this month, she wondered to herself, why not throw another.
No one in Michigan softball history had thrown two perfect games before, at least until Wednesday when Taylor stepped into the circle against Penn State. Less than an hour and a half later, after an 8-0 five-inning win over the Nittany Lions, no one could say that anymore.
Taylor had her second perfect game.
“Perfect games are kind of luck of the draw a little bit,” Taylor said. “Easily make an error or someone could have hit the ball an inch more to the right and it could have been a hit. It’s one of those things that are hard to come by and it’s kind of cool to have gotten even one.
“But to get two is kind of awesome.”
Taylor was, again, dominant. She struck out nine of the 15 batters she faced. Three of those nine strikeouts came on full counts, where she easily could have given up one walk. She also brought a full count to Penn State center fielder Cassidy Bell - the first batter of the game.
But Taylor stayed focused, much like she has over the last month since switching the footwork on her pitching motion from crow-hopping to dragging her foot after being called for illegal pitches.
Against Minnesota on April 10, that perfect game showed she had rediscovered the form that let her be a freshman All-American two seasons. On Wednesday against Penn State (26-16 overall, 5-7 Big Ten), it showed just how dominant the junior has become on her way to an 18-2 record.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words, she’s a go-getter,” Michigan first baseman Dorian Shaw said. “Jordan, when she wants things, she goes and gets them. She’s very determined and I have not, I can’t say I’ve seen a pitcher do what she’s done at the level that she’s at.”
By doing so, Taylor did something no other Michigan pitcher has done. Not her teammate, senior pitcher Nikki Nemitz, who threw her own perfect game a year ago and was part of a one-hitter in an 8-0 win in the second game of the doubleheader. Not Kelly Forbis, who threw the first perfect game in Michigan softball history on March 23, 1993.
Not even Jennie Ritter, the ace of the 2005 national championship team, who threw her perfect game on April 17, 2005 against Indiana.
“I try not to get too caught up in the perfect games,” Michigan pitching coach Jen Brundage said. “So I’ve seen our pitchers be locked in like she is.”
Part of Taylor’s ability comes from her approach. She pitches aggressively - a style she started using back in Valencia, Calif. as a teenager learning to throw a softball. It carried her through high school, through AAU and to this point at Michigan (35-5, 14-0).
The aggressiveness allows her to throw a perfect game even when there are times she isn’t. Brundage said Taylor’s curveball was “a little off early in the game.” So she adjusted and by the end of the game, she had it working like her changeup, riseball and screwball.
In throwing her second perfect game, she also claimed another record - this one from Ritter.
Taylor pitched her sixth no-hitter in three seasons, breaking Ritter’s mark of five.
“She’s learned how to stay focused on one pitch at a time,” Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins said. “She’s having more fun, she’s allowing herself to have fun out there. I don’t think she expects herself to be perfect. Sometimes pitchers try to make everything perfect and then they get outside themselves when things don’t go perfectly.”
But for the second time this year, Taylor started and ended things one way. Perfectly.