Walk-On becomes impact player for Lady Toppers

Junior catcher Taylor Proctor prepares for the second game of the double header on Saturday, April 22 against Samford University. The Lady Toppers lost to Samford 14-9. Jennifer King/HERALD

Hunter Frint

Exceeding Expectations

After taking a year off from college softball, junior Taylor Proctor returned to the scene at WKU expecting little play time, but she found herself pleasantly surprised by this season’s outcome.

Proctor, originally from Bowling Green, contacted WKU softball Head Coach Amy Tudor last summer and asked if she could walk on for summer tryouts.

Proctor had returned to Bowling Green one year after playing college ball for Lindsey Wilson College. She was asked by her friend Kathryn Downing to try out to be a Lady Topper after the team lost several mature players the previous season.

“Taylor contacted me in the summer and she was going to Western, wanted to be a part of the team, and we had tryouts,” Tudor said. “I told her to come to tryouts; she came to tryouts. She made the team, and she’s worked her tail off to become a starter. So it’s one of those stories that are fun to talk about.”

Proctor has played softball in Bowling Green since she was a small child. She played travel ball as a kid and then played for Greenwood High School from seventh grade until 10th grade.

As a high school junior, Proctor moved schools to South Warren High School, where she played until graduation.

Awards and honors Proctor has collected throughout her softball career include being named a three-time all-district selection, a two-time all-region and all-state honoree and a four-time academic all-state selection. Proctor was also named South Warren’s most valuable player in 2011 and 2012.

At the beginning of her college career, Proctor attended Lindsey Wilson and played for its team until her sophomore year, but Proctor said she was not very content there. She said she wasn’t getting much play time, and wanted to return to Bowling Green in 2015.

“I was at Western last year, and I didn’t play softball; I was just a student,” Proctor said. “Over the summer, Kat [Downing] just kind of convinced me to play, I think, because she wanted a friend on the team more than anything. They had lost a lot from last year’s team, so she pretty much told me I might legitimately have a shot to make the team.”

And make the team she did.

Not only did Proctor become a Lady Topper softball player, she has become one of the key players this year as a catcher and a strong hitter. Tudor described Proctor and Downing as a pitcher-catcher team and said Proctor brings even more than that to the Lady Toppers.

“Obviously we’re very young,” Tudor said. “She brings maturity to the team. I think she brings a sense of ‘this is my second chance to play ball and something that I never thought I’d be able to do,’ and so it’s a great opportunity.”

Downing is also a junior at WKU and has played for the Lady Toppers since her freshman year of college.

The pitcher came to WKU from Bowling Green High School, where she played softball, lettering all four years. Proctor and Downing have grown up together in Bowling Green and have a long-standing softball history.

“I love playing with Taylor because, first of all, she’s one of my best friends, so it’s always fun playing with someone who means more to you than just the game,” Downing said.  “We joke we’re going to be buried 43 feet apart from each other.”

Proctor said she and Downing have played softball together since they were about 8 or 9 years old. They continued to play against each other in high school; even in the summers, they would play travel ball together. Downing is the reason Proctor heard about the walk-on tryouts, but Proctor didn’t expect to become such a key player.

“I was really just there to be moral support for Kat,” Proctor said. “I thought I was going to ride the bench, maybe catch in the bullpen some. It’s been kind of a shock, but it’s been exciting.”

Proctor is a physical education major with a minor in health. She will graduate in December 2016 but plans to continue her education and start graduate school next spring.

She has one year of eligibility left for softball and wants to continue to play. Proctor said even though this season has been hard at times, she has enjoyed it.

“The caliber of play is just so much different than anything I’ve ever played in before,” Proctor said. “The pitchers that I face, the speed of the game, just everything is so much more intense than I’ve ever experienced. So it’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a learning experience.” 

So far in Proctor’s first season as a Lady Topper, she has started approximately 40 games of slightly more than 45 games played by the team and has a batting average of over .200. 

“I’m just so proud of her,” Downing said. “She took a whole year off from playing softball, and I kind of kept bothering her this summer and kept telling her, ‘You got to come out,’ and she didn’t think she’d play an inning, and look at her. She’s one of our key contributors.”