Taylor Nelson has played shortstop for Aliso Niguel High School, but at her natural third base, her coach, Randie Baldwin, describes her defense as "elite." Photo courtesy of Randie Baldwin

Aliso Niguel softball’s naturally bold leader ready to take on Stanford

By Greg Mellen

Aliso Niguel High softball coach Randie Baldwin remembers the moment she first realized there was something truly special about Taylor Nelson beyond her on-field talent.

The Wolverines were trailing by two runs late in a game, and Baldwin recalls when Nelson gathered the team around.

“She said ‘Guys, we’re going to win this game. We’re only down two runs.’ That’s when I realized she was a game changer,” Baldwin said.

Gathering the team together to encourage them might not seem unusual, except that Nelson was not the senior team captain she is now. She wasn’t even a junior. Nelson was a sophomore at the time.

The Aliso Niguel standout’s maturity, leadership, feistiness, and skills have only grown since.

Senior Captain Taylor Nelson on the Aliso Niguel High softball team is described by Wolverines Coach Randie Baldwin as the “whole package.”
Photo courtesy of Randie Baldwin

In the fall, the versatile infielder who signed a national letter of intent in November will join a Stanford University team that reached the semifinals in the 2023 Women’s College World Series. For Nelson, going to the Cardinal is the culmination of a long-held dream.

“Honestly, Stanford has been a dream since I was eight years old,” Nelson said. “I would talk about it with my dad and I have worked hard at academics and softball.”

As a junior, Nelson verbally agreed to go to Maryland, but when Stanford became an option she couldn’t resist. Baldwin said she was not surprised that Nelson was sought out by Stanford.

“She’s the whole package. She’s talented, competitive, has all the intangibles,” Baldwin said. “She’s the hardest worker on the field and does things the right way.”

Nelson prides herself on her vocal leadership both in the dugout and between the lines.

“I want to be the loudest player on the field,” she said. “Overall, I think I bring good energy.”

Aliso Niguel High infielder Taylor Nelson will be taking her game to Stanford in the fall.
Photo courtesy of Randie Baldwin

On letter of intent day, Stanford Coach Jessica Allister told the media, “Taylor is a hard-nosed infielder that can both drive the ball and play the short game from the right side. Taylor is a fiery competitor that plays the game hard. Our fans are really going to enjoy watching her play.”

In her self-scouting report, Nelson admits she’s not a “super-power” hitter, and seeks to add that to her game.

A different animal

The Wolverines are not new to sending players to academically elite schools. Senior outfielder Gigi Ganje committed to Penn of the Ivy League, where she joins four-year Aliso Niguel High letter winner Chloe Lesko.

But when it comes to brains and brawn, Stanford is a different animal. Nelson has approached her studies the same way she attacks a hanging drop ball.

“I have always thrived on academic validation,” said Nelson, who has a 4.0 unweighted grade point average and a 4.75 mark when advanced placement classes are added.

“I want to learn,” Nelson said. “I know for a lot of people, it comes naturally. I really have to work. I think that’s part of my grit and determination.”

Nelson joins a group of seven players to join the perennially powerful Cardinal. Last year, Stanford posted a 47-15 record, advancing to the semifinals of the College World Series before being eliminated by eventual national champion Oklahoma. In 2022, the Cardinal were fourth in the Super Regional. In Allister’s six years, the Cardinal have reached the postseason four times, missing in her first year and when competition was canceled due to the pandemic.

Nelson has been a four-year varsity starter and is already a two-time first-team All South Coast League player. She helped the Wolverines win the league title in 2023 and reach the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals.

In becoming a Stanford signee, Aliso Niguel High senior softball standout Taylor Nelson proved she swings for the fences.
Photo courtesy of Randie Baldwin

Nelson, the No. 34 recruit in the country, according to Extra Inning Softball, plays for the Firecrackers Select Rico/Brashear 18U team when high school is not in season.

Versatility is a big part of Nelson’s game. This year, she is starting at shortstop but her future is likely at third base where Baldwin says her defense is “elite.”

If there is an ultimate dream for Nelson, it is, naturally, the Olympics. Although softball was dropped after the Summer Games in 2021, the sport is scheduled to return to the big stage in 2028 in Los Angeles, when Nelson will be coming off her senior year.

“There’s no doubt I would love to play,” Nelson says. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll just put my best four years in college playing and studying whatever I major in.”

And she will continue to be the loudest player on the field. Nelson remembers her coming-out moment as a sophomore. At the moment she said it didn’t seem at all unnatural and needed to be said.

“Afterward I was proud of myself,” she said. “It wasn’t until after I thought about it that I realized it was a little bold.”

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