Article by: Eric-Paul Johnson from The Press-Enterprise
Photo Courtesy of: Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG
6-26-2017 – Norco – From the moment of her first pitching lesson, Taylor Dockins assumed the role of the underdog.
Beth Windham often tells the story of how a six-year-old Dockins showed up to that lesson in a skirt.
“How am I going to make this one a pitcher?” Windham recalled thinking of her first glance at Dockins nearly a dozen years ago. “She didn’t even know how to step and throw the ball when she first started. But Taylor had that drive deep inside of her, and within six months she was an amazing young pitcher.”
Dockins averaged 25 wins during her first three seasons with Norco, and she helped the program capture the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship as a sophomore in 2015. Despite those accomplishments, she was not among the 100 players FloSoftball.com listed as the top college recruits in the 2017 class.
“I don’t let those things discourage me,” Dockins said. “But stuff like that definitely motivates me.”
Last summer, Dockins was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer, and many wondered how effective she would be months after having half of her liver (including a five-inch tumor) removed. Just returning to the softball diamond would have been deemed a major victory, but Dockins wasn’t going to settle for that.
Dockins turned in the best season of her career, going 33-1 inside the circle and helping Norco return to the Division 1 championship game. Dockins finished with 108 career wins, a Southern Section record and fourth-highest total in state history. She also was a standout hitter, batting .454 with 27 RBIs.
For those reasons and more, Dockins has been selected as the HSGameTime Softball Player of the Year.
“You don’t really expect those numbers from a pitcher in any season,” Norco coach Rick Robinson said. “For Taylor to come and back after all the things she went through and do it was absolutely amazing.”
When she resumed pitching two months after the surgery, Dockins said she would begin to show signs of fatigue after throwing a handful of innings. Dockins spent the next months building back her stamina. Dockins, who is headed to Cal State Fullerton, remained surprisingly positive throughout her comeback. While family, teammates, coaches and friends worried, Dockins often cracked jokes to lighten the mood.
“That was always in the back of my mind, but getting back and doing the thing I love was therapeutic,” Dockins said. “I could not have been able to do this without the support of so many wonderful people.”
Dockins was at her best against top competition at the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., and the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim. Dockins went 10-0 with a 0.59 ERA and 57 strikeouts to help the Cougars win both tournaments, and she fired a shutout in each of the the event’s championship game.
“I think she sometimes plays with a chip on her shoulder,” Robinson said. “She wants to be considered one of the best pitchers around, and the best way to get people thinking that is to go beat the best.”
Dockins believes her small stature — she is listed at 5-foot-5 but admits to being a half inch shorter — is the prime reason she gets overlooked when there’s talk about the nation’s elite softball pitchers. Dockins can hit 62 miles per hour on the radar gun, but spin, location and mental toughness have been her calling cards over the years. Dockins always is quick to give plenty of credit to her teammates.
“A pitcher can’t win games on their own,” Dockins said. “You need a great defense behind you and also need plenty of run support, and I’ve been extremely blessed to have both my four years here at Norco.”
Dockins knows there probably still are people who doubt she can make an impact at the collegiate level.
“I’m just going to keep fighting, working hard and doing my thing,” she said.