Homecoming: Former Pinnacle High softball star shines in return to Arizona

Rutgers outfielder Taylor Fawcett had an accomplished career at Pinnacle High School before heading to the East Coast. (Photo by Hogan Armstrong/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – One of Pinnacle High School’s most decorated softball players finally got a chance to return to Arizona State’s Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium, where she and her Pioneers teammates built memories for a lifetime.

For Taylor Fawcett, a junior center fielder for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Farrington was like a second home during her time at Pinnacle. The Pioneers played in four consecutive 6A state championship games during her time in high school and won the 2018 title by beating rival Chandler Hamilton, 4-0.

It was the biggest of the 120 victories the Pioneers collected during Fawcett’s run.

“I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity to come back and play in my home state,” Fawcett said before she and the Scarlet Knights played in the recent GCU/ASU Classic. “I am going to be able to play in front of my family again, which is really cool. And it should be nice to play in nice weather again because it was just snowing in Jersey a couple days ago.”

After splitting their first two games of the tournament at GCU Softball Stadium, the Scarlet Knights moved to Tempe to face New Mexico State and it was evident Fawcett enjoyed the sunny, cloudless skies of a 75-degree Arizona afternoon.

She put on a show, collecting four hits in four trips to the plate, including a home run and a double. She drove in three runs in a 6-3 Rutgers victory.

It was a career day, and only fitting that it came at Farrington.

“Of course, winning that championship on that field is one of my favorite softball memories,” Fawcett said. “That season was just so incredible, not just for me, but for everyone on the team.”

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That set up a matchup against Arizona State, just the third meeting between the teams ever with the two previous games resulting in lopsided wins by the Sun Devils.

Fawcett and Rutgers made it tougher this time around, as the No. 23-ranked Sun Devils earned a hard-fought 5-1 victory. It also gave Fawcett a chance to reunite with one of her Pioneers teammates, ASU pitcher Marissa Schuld.

Schuld graduated a year ahead of Fawcett and was perhaps even more decorated as a high school athlete. Schuld is sitting out the season after transferring within the Pac-12 from Arizona, so she didn’t play, but the two greeted each other in the postgame handshake line.

The last time the two played together at Farrington, Schuld struck out 14 Hamilton hitters in a complete-game shutout in that 2018 championship game.

“Marissa is such a great player, and I am so happy for her to accomplish the things she accomplished in high school,” Fawcett said. “She’s just so blessed with natural talent, but she was also the hardest working player on the team. She is so deserving of everything she has been able to do and will continue to do as a softball player.”

Schuld was named the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year in back-to-back years, as well as capturing a handful of other national and state-wide awards. As a senior, she posted an 11-1 record with a 0.74 ERA in 13 appearances and hit .574 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI.

Former Pioneers head coach Bobby Pena couldn’t get enough of having the two on the same field for three seasons.

“No other softball team in Arizona did what we did over those years,” Pena said, referencing the number of wins the Pioneers racked up from 2016-2018. “We were able to build a winning tradition because of the competitive drive and nature of these two young ladies.”

Fawcett experienced her best high school season during her senior year, too. In 2019, the outfielder hit .485 with 15 home runs (one shy of Schuld’s single-season record) and 47 RBI. She was named a Premier Girls Fastpitch All-American and was a finalist for the Arizona High School Player of the Year award.

Fawcett raised her batting average each season at Pinnacle, and Pena said her rare combination of speed and power separated her from other players. Pena almost always gave Fawcett the green light to steal a base whenever she wanted to. It was the mentality that helped her steal nearly 40 bases in four varsity seasons.

“It felt like Taylor was always on base,” Pena said. “She was the fastest girl I have ever coached, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t hit. If you tried to throw it anywhere on the inner-third of the plate, Taylor was going to make you pay. That inside part of the plate was dangerous territory for our opponents when she was in the box.”

Fawcett and Schult have followed vastly different collegiate softball paths. Schuld started at Arizona before returning to the Valley with her transfer to ASU. Fawcett, on the other hand, embraced a move across the country.

“I chose Rutgers because of the opportunity to play in the Big Ten, which is one of the best conferences for all sports, not just softball,” she said.. “It has been fun playing at a place that I know I am wanted, and I embrace the challenges ahead of me.”

Being so far apart for a handful of years has made staying in touch difficult for Fawcett and Schuld.

“I’m sure she could say the same, but I know I have been super busy adjusting to the workload a Division I softball team requires,” Fawcett added. “I definitely wish we could talk more, but with so much going on in our respective lives, it’s challenging for sure.”

Ryan Schwager rye-en schway-grrr (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ryan Schwager expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, a minor in digital audiences and a business certificate. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

Hogan Armstrong Hoe-gan Arm-str-aw-ng
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Hogan Armstrong expects to graduate in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Armstrong, who was a research and development intern for Criminal Minded Media, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.