Softball: Oak Forest’s Taylor Sterkowitz makes hitting her craft — and she’s good at it
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org April 16, 2014 8:46PM
Taylor Sterkowitz, of Oak Forest | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2014 1:23PM
Taylor Sterkowitz was 10 years old when she made a crowd gasp with her mighty bat for the first time.
It was during a 10-and-under game at Hillcrest’s softball field when she launched a towering home run down the left-field line.
“There were cars parked all the way down left field,” she said. “I almost hit my sister’s car.
“Everybody was laughing. It was funny.”
Car owners, beware. She brings her bat to Oak Forest.
Sterkowitz started off the 2014 season with a 225-foot three-run rocket in her first at-bat. Through Tuesday, she was hitting a robust .571, with six home runs and 25 RBI.
As a freshman in 2013, Sterkowitz batted .362, with seven homers and 33 RBI. Her presence in the middle of the batting order kept the Bengals in the thick of the South Suburban Blue race.
“I was actually pretty nervous, for me being a freshman on the varsity,” Sterkowitz said. “Oak Forest is a big, really good softball organization. I really didn’t see it coming, but I definitely wanted to be on the varsity. I tried my best at tryouts.”
The decision wasn’t hard to make, according to Oak Forest coach Katy Dammer.
“She did a stellar job in the preseason and earned herself a starting position,” Dammer said. “I was confident she would get the job done and handle varsity situations just fine, but the numbers that she put up as a freshman did surprise me a little.”
The 6-foot sophomore also is a center on the Bengals basketball team. In 2013-14, she averaged 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds.
She plans to play basketball all four years, but maintains her college sights are set on softball.
“I just have a passion for it,” Sterkowitz said. “It’s really fun, meeting my teammates. It’s just exciting. I look forward to every practice and every game.”
One of her influences before coming to Oak Forest was former Bengals power-hitting catcher and SouthtownStar 2011 Player of the Year Emily Naegele.
“It was just amazing how far she could hit the ball,” Sterkowitz said. “I remember one of the games the pitcher threw a changeup and she bombed the ball. I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Sterkowitz does a pretty good impression, especially for a right-handed hitter who does everything else left-handed.
“I remember when I was little my brother would teach me how to swing the bat and I would just swirl around,” she said, smiling.
Finding her swing is a passion that extends beyond softball season. In the summer she plays for the Windy City Ice, which in 2013 took fourth at the ASA Nationals.
Winter doesn’t stop her, either.
“During basketball season after practice I would go into the cages and swing the bat,” Sterkowitz said. “I would take dry swings, too, inside my house.
“Hitting well takes concentration and just working hard every day at practice. You’ve got to do the little things, like tee work.”
It’s a dedication that is paying off.