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AVC'S WILSON AN ALL-OUT STANDOUT SHORTSTOP'S WORK ETHIC MAKES HER A TOP PLAYER.

Byline: Gideon Rubin Special to the Daily News

LANCASTER - Tayler Wilson said she makes a conscious effort to back off a bit when she goes wakeboarding on the Pacific Ocean or rides dirt bikes in the Eastern California desert.

``I can't get hurt,'' she said. ``I could lose a scholarship or I could hurt my team.''

Wilson, a standout Antelope Valley College sophomore shortstop, is considerably less cautious on a softball field.

Her gritty playing style has helped the former Paraclete High star land a scholarship to Division II Abilene (Texas) Christian, and has helped catapult AVC to elite status.

The Marauders (22-5, 5-0 in Foothill Conference) are ranked No. 1 in Southern California and No. 3 in the state in what so far has been the program's most successful season.

``Out here, it's leave everything out there and go all out,'' Wilson said. ``If you get hurt, at least you're doing it out here. It sounds funny, but that's what I'm here for.''

Wilson's athleticism and her whatever-it-takes attitude allowed her to make a seamless transition from second base to shortstop out of high school.

Her ability to make contact, move baserunners over and drive the ball have made her an exceptionally valuable No. 2 hitter. Wilson is batting .478 (33 for 69) with eight extra-base hits and a .638 slugging percentage. She has struck out just twice.

``What's great about Tayler is she's a great bunter, but she also has the ability to swing away and hit for power,'' AVC coach Cindy Vargas said. ``She can just crush the ball.''

Vargas said Wilson's excellent range and her willingness to dive for balls has made her an outstanding defensive shortstop.

``If I walk off the field with a clean uniform, then I know I didn't give 100 percent,'' Wilson said. ``I know I have 17 other girls out there giving their best too, so I don't want to waste anybody's time out there.''

Wilson, a four-year varsity starter in high school, established a reputation as one of the Antelope Valley's most intense players early in her prep career.

Paraclete coach Margaret Neill said she was taken aback when she spotted Wilson practicing her slide during batting practice early in her freshman year.

``I heard something in the dirt, and I didn't know what it was,'' Neill said. ``That's Tayler. She's one of a kind.''

Wilson's hard-nosed approached has helped set the tone for AVC.

``She's not that big, she's a thin little girl, but she's just really tough,'' AVC center fielder Erica Ricker said. ``Her aggressiveness shows and the intensity she brings rubs off on all of us.''

Wilson, who is majoring in business administration, said she was attracted to Abilene Christian's small-school environment, which she said reminds her of Paraclete.

She said riding dirt bikes and wakeboarding give her a similar rush to playing softball, and she admits that being cautious in those endeavors goes against the grain of her personality.

``I probably push the limits a little more than I should, bit you still have to be able to live,'' she said with a smile. ``I'm not that strict.''

Gideon Rubin, (818)713-3607

gideon.rubin(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Antelope Valley College shortstop Tayler Wilson is batting .478 (33 for 69) with eight extra-base hits and a .638 slugging percentage this season.

(2 -- color) AVC shortstop Tayler Wilson has earned a scholarship to play at Abilene Christian, a Division II college in Texas.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 22, 2006
Words:586
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