Taylor McQuillin still hasn’t come down from pitching her team to a California championship this season, but her adrenal glands got another workout today when three-time Olympic gold medalist and former Team USA star Amanda Freed surprised the Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) senior with the 2013-14 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award.
“I’m in total shock and I’m so excited and honored,”said McQuillin, 17, an Arizona commit. “Even being considered for California Player of the Year was such an honor. I never thought I’d win that. And now this. There are so many amazing players out there. Words can’t describe what this feels like.”
The 5-foot-8 junior left-handed pitcher posted a 25-1 record in the circle with a 0.69 ERA this past season, leading the Diablos (26-1) to the Southern Section, Division II tournament title. A two-time South Coast League MVP, McQuillin struck out 316 batters and walked just 18 in 173.2 innings pitched. She fired four no-hitters, including two perfect games, and held opponents to a .120 batting average. At the plate, the teen, who is blind in her left eye, batted .323 with one home run and a .525 slugging percentage.
“It’s so fun to see how big this award has become and what it means to the kids,” said Freed, who won Gatorade’s inaugural national softball award as a Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) senior in 1998. “I was so excited just to see how excited Taylor was. It was so genuine and shows what kind of kid she is. Our sport has grown so much and she’s got a chance to be a big part of its future.”
McQuillin has maintained a weighted 3.97 GPA in the classroom. A second-degree black belt in taekwondo and a member of the National Honor Society, she wrote a weekly softball blog for StudentSports.com this spring. She has donated her time at Lake Forest Elementary School as a tutor, teaching assistant and literacy-outreach ambassador. McQuillin has also volunteered as a youth instructor for the Orange County Batbusters as well on behalf of the St. Anne School’s seasonal Fish & Loaves program for the needy.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. McQuillin is now a finalist for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
McQuillin is the 62nd prep athlete from California in the award’s 29-year history to win national Gatorade honors in any sport, more than every other state. She becomes the seventh Californian to claim the Gatorade national softball trophy—also the most from a single state. She joins a distinguished list of national-winner alumni from the Golden State, including NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall, North Hollywood), who won in 2008, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix (Los Angeles Baptist, North Hills), the 2003 winner in track, and three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose), who won in 1996.
Texas, with 28, followed by Florida (20) and Illinois (15) have produced the next-most Gatorade national winners.