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Edwards’ return boosting Illini

lllinois%E2%80%99+Taylor+Edwards+delivers+a+pitch+during+a+game+against+Eastern+Illinois+at+Eichelberger+Field+on+May+2%2C+2017.+The+Ilini+lost+4-3.
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Edwards’ return boosting Illini

lllinois’ Taylor Edwards delivers a pitch during a game against Eastern Illinois at Eichelberger Field on May 2, 2017. The Ilini lost 4-3.

lllinois’ Taylor Edwards delivers a pitch during a game against Eastern Illinois at Eichelberger Field on May 2, 2017. The Ilini lost 4-3.

Austin Yattoni

lllinois’ Taylor Edwards delivers a pitch during a game against Eastern Illinois at Eichelberger Field on May 2, 2017. The Ilini lost 4-3.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

lllinois’ Taylor Edwards delivers a pitch during a game against Eastern Illinois at Eichelberger Field on May 2, 2017. The Ilini lost 4-3.


It started with a line drive foul ball off the bat of Carly Thomas.

Next thing she knew, Taylor Edwards was on her back.

“I didn’t see anything, but I just heard the whole crowd go ‘Oooh,’” said catcher Stephanie Abello.

Edwards was struck by the line drive in the bullpen warming up for a relief outing in the second game of a doubleheader against Purdue, giving her a cut above her left eye to go with a sizeable black eye.

Abello said a prayer with the rest of the team, the team trainer ran into the pen, and for a moment everyone on the Illinois softball team was stuck.

However, for Edwards, after the first moment, the fear went away.

“After like two seconds I was instantly comforted,” Edwards said. “As scary as it was it was a little blessing in disguise how well I felt after it.”

The Illini ended up not needing the junior that evening, as Danielle Brochu completed the 10-2 victory for the Illini, but she was still on the minds of her teammates.

“I hit a home run my last at-bat,” Abello said. “That was 110 percent with her on my mind.”

While the pictures posted to Edwards’ Twitter account painted a grizzly story with her unable to open the damaged eye, just six days later Edwards was back on the mound, going six innings against Minnesota.

In the bottom of the fourth inning in her return, Edwards faced a blast from the recent past off the bat of Minnesota’s Allie Arneson.

“I haven’t lost any confidence in my fielding ability,” Edwards said. “If anything, that week off gave me a little more of an eagerness to get out there.”

That confidence allowed her to snag the line drive headed right for her, ending the inning right there.

For Edwards, the confidence doesn’t just come from herself. The defining feature of Edward’s game day attire is the two crosses on either cheek created with eye-black. She first did it in high school and has not played without them on since, saying she doesn’t want to take the field without a chance to give glory back.

Edwards credits the toughness that has endeared her to the coaches and her teammate, but also her faith.

“I know that that night it wasn’t me,” Edwards said. “Immediately when it happened I started praying, and honestly I feel my faith took over from there.”

Those prayers gave Edwards some calm in the moments after the impact and allowed her to make some jokes for her teammates while the trainer looked at her.

While the injury created a pause in Edward’s 2018 campaign, the junior looked to continue right where she left off. Edwards was one of a few returning contributors to the 39-win 2017 squad, going 14-2 in 24 appearances and 17 starts for the Illini in her sophomore year.

However, this season has been anything but smooth for Edwards.

“I think she’s started to catch her stride,” Perry said. “At the start of the year, I think it had to do with the mental aspect of trying to be the number one (pitcher).”

Edwards struggled out the gate, getting four losses in her first six appearances and sporting a career-worst 4.51 ERA, but has since gotten 10 wins in her last 12 appearances, many as a relief pitcher.

“I’m a person that thrives of off being calm, but the team looks to me for energy,” Edwards said. “As the season goes on I’ve been able to find that balance between being the team’s hype-man and still performing at my calm level.”

She may say she is calm, but her pitching style betrays the intensity that has allowed her to become a leader on the team.

“Taylor has a competitive edge that is rarely matched by anyone I’ve ever met,” Abello said. “She attacks every single pitch, and she’s fearless. I’m really lucky to be her catcher.”

With Edwards finding her role, the Illini are looking to bounce back from a pair of 6-0 losses to Minnesota this weekend at Eichelberger Field.

If they’re anything like their fiery pitcher, the team expects to be fine.

“I feel good as new,” Edwards said.

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