Softball player Taylor LeMay used to be tiny. She was strong at the plate, but it was singles, table-setting and a hit-for-contact approach that defined her.
Then around the summer of her freshman year, she started hitting for power. Improved mechanics, increased strength and high-level coaching have created one of the state's smoothest swings. She hit nearly 20 home runs that summer in elite summer ball, with college coaches taking note.
As the Raptors enter their third season of existence -- LeMay's final one before she moves on to play at Concordia (St. Paul) -- don't expect her progression to slow anytime soon.
"This year, I'm swinging better than I ever have," the East Ridge senior said. "It just keeps going."
Being a catcher, LeMay is a natural at picking up the ball from the pitcher's hand and reading pitches. She's also constantly seeing the ball from behind the plate while honing in on the strike zone as umpires hover behind her. Her timing as a hitter has always been impeccable. By her own admission she's "pretty chill" at the plate.
So how could she improve?
Working with talented coaches over the summer got LeMay to drive her hands a little quicker and put more snap on the ball. She's also following through higher, maximizing her driving and power potential.
Coaching has played a large part in LeMay's rise, but there's one coach who's always particularly been there: Dad. LeMay's father never has said no to Taylor when she has wanted to practice hitting. They still hit two to three times each week outside of games and practices, even during the season.
Aside from swinging the bat, LeMay is an athletic catcher and has quick instincts with a sound glove. She can play the outfield as well, providing versatility that will allow teams to keep her bat in the lineup.
LeMay will be the Raptors' catcher under head coach Tom Nemo. It's the best place for her to show off her greatest quality: leadership.
"If I had to prioritize Taylor's strengths from 1 to 10, I'd probably say No. 1 is that fact," Nemo said.
During scrimmages March 22 in the Stillwater dome, LeMay was in full mentor mode on the bench. Nemo calls her another coach on the bench. LeMay has taken a liking to coaching herself, and with a young Raptors roster, she gets the chance to play that role every day.
LeMay hit a walk-off home run in East Ridge's first home game ever to notch the Raptors first victory. Now she's trying to help the program in a variety of ways.
"It's not about Taylor. It's about her trying to make the other kids around her better," Nemo added.
LeMay will work toward her coaching degree at Concordia, where she will also play college softball. She hopes to finish out her playing career and return somewhere to coach.
Her experience this year will help. The Raptors are young but "talented young," as Nemo called them.
Three sophomore pitchers are adapting to the varsity level. Three starting seniors augment a lineup filled with eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders.
"Taylor's going to be called upon to be a huge leader," Nemo said.