It was as close to a perfect ending as Taylor Bussey could have envisioned.
One of two seniors on an inexperienced Prairie High School softball team, Bussey figured the Falcons would struggle this spring.
Instead, they rolled to league and district titles, then made an improbable run to the Class 3A state championship game.
Rest of All-Region team
Amee Aarhus, sr., Camas: Portland State-bound shortstop batted .424 with eight steals.
Madison Anthony, sr., Skyview: 4A Greater St. Helens League player of the year.
Emily Dobbin, jr., Skyview: Starred at third base for 4A district champions.
Bailey Gaspar, sr., Mountain View: One of the most feared hitters in Clark County.
Harli Hubbard, jr., Camas: Pitcher went 11-4 with 1.52 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 17 games.
Makayla Lefever, sr., Woodland: Whitworth-bound pitcher led the Beavers to Class 1A state final.
Nicole O’Haver, jr., Prairie: Speed and talent helped Falcons reach 3A state title game.
Lena Richards, jr., Camas: Batted .468 and played a solid second base for league champs.
Katie Schroeder, so., Camas: Pitcher was 10-2 with 1.43 ERA and only 18 walks in 83 innings.
Erin Tauscher, sr., Camas: Linfield-bound catcher belted six home runs and drove in 30 runs.
Emily Tesdale, sr., Woodland: Catcher will play in college for Pacific Lutheran.
"It's not always about how much talent you have. It's about the heart you put into it," Bussey said. "And we came out on top most games."
There is no questioning Bussey's talent. She recorded at least one hit in 28 of the team's 29 games, hit seven home runs -- a number that would have been higher if Prairie had a fence at its home games -- drove in 33 runs and scored 35 times. All while playing superb defense in the demanding position of shortstop.
With her numbers, and for leading her team to the championship game with three home runs in the state tournament, Bussey is The Columbian's All-Region softball player of the year.
At the state tournament, the Falcons trailed in the first-round game 3-2 before rallying to win in extra innings.
In the semifinals, they trailed 6-0 and 8-2 before winning 10-9.
And in the championship game, the Falcons rallied from a 3-0 deficit to take the lead going into the seventh before Kamiakin of Kennewick was able to pull away for the title.
Bussey went 6 for 12 with three homers, two doubles, and a triple in the four games.
"We all just ran out of gas," Bussey said. "It was definitely sad, my last high school game. I've gotten so close to these girls. It wasn't losing that made me sad. It was my last game I'll ever play with them. We were such a close team."
Her next team will be at Concordia University in Portland. Told she has NCAA Division I talent, Bussey instead chose the NAIA school.
Hoping to become a nurse, Bussey said she does not need the big-school experience.
"I'm not going to be playing professional softball after college. I'm using softball to get my education and keep doing what I love doing, which is to play softball," she said.
• Hit safely in 27 of 28 games, leading a young, inexperienced team to the Class 3A state championship game.
• Reached base more than 50 percent of her plate appearances, as opponents pitched around her often.
• Hit three home runs in the state tournament.
• Finished the season with 33 RBI and 35 runs scored.
More about Taylor
• Favorite subject: Math. “I don’t always get it right away, but I like the challenge of it.”
• Most inspirational person: “My dad (Stu). He taught me a lot about the game. I look up to him.” Stu also is an assistant coach with Skyview baseball. “He does it all. He’s Super Dad.”
• TV: “When the Women’s College World Series is on, that’s all you’ll catch me watching.” Otherwise, it’s HGTV.
Next year and beyond
• Taylor could have gone to a big school. There were opportunities. But she said she wants to focus on her education first — she wants to be a nurse — and Concordia was the perfect fit for her studies and softball.
“The game isn’t always about winning. It teaches you life lessons. Everybody fails. You just get back up and work harder.” — Taylor Bussey