Taylor Hinnenkamp never had the size to be a physically intimidating softball player. But that never stopped her from working hard to achieve her dream of playing college ball. After seeing how far Hinnenkamp has come in her four-year career with the Orioles, believing she had what it takes to become a college athlete is a no-brainer.
“When she came in here, she was a shortstop, right-handed hitter. Six games into her freshman season, she was a left fielder and a left-handed slapper,” Augusta coach Shane Steinkamp said. “To watch her game unfold from freshman until her senior year, it’s been night and day. She’s been a kid who’s worked extremely hard to become more effective. Each year it’s getting better. Each she’s doing more, both offensively and defensively.”
Hinnenkamp blossomed into an All-Leaguer, a solid hitter, a great outfielder and a fantastic base runner. It didn’t take long for Cowley Community College to notice how effective of a player she was, and the coaches knew they wanted her to play for their program. It’s turned out to be a perfect match. Hinnenkamp signed a letter of intent to join the Cowley Tigers’ softball program next year.
“It really shows all of my hard work in the past has paid off,” Hinnenkamp said. “It’s a big step. It’s what I wanted to do my whole life. When I grew up, I never thought I would actually be able to play in college, but now that I am, it’s cool.”
Hinnenkamp first got a taste of the campus and Cowley’s coaches when she helped Morgan Kirk, a former Oriole who’s now a sophomore for the Tigers, move down there. Hinnenkamp has been to Cowley’s summer camp, and she was invited for another visit this past November, when they offered her a spot on the team.
“I learned to like [Cowley]. Their coach is super awesome,” Hinnenkamp said.
Hinnenkamp said she’ll spend time in the outfield, where she’s played most of her career with the Orioles. She’ll have a similar role on offense, as well.
“They’re really going to utilize my speed like Shane has,” she said.
“The kid can run. She can put a ball in play and is a triple threat,” Steinkamp said. “She can bunt, she can slap, she can soft slap, she can hit with a little bit of pop. She adds so much to an offense just with the little things she can do with the game.”
More than the talent, though, Steinkamp said he’s proud that Hinnenkamp has been a tremendous example of a hard worker who loves the game and is a great teammate.
“For her, the kid will always work. She’s the first one to the ballpark, last one to leave,” Steinkamp said. “That’s the dedication these kids put in.”
Hinnenkamp knew her work ethic would have to overcome her rather shorter stature.
“I was afraid that getting recruited would be harder for coaches to notice me because of my size,” Hinnenkamp said. “So I had to work.”
She’s worked herself and helped work her team to three appearances at the state tournament in her career. Hinnenkamp won state championships both her freshman and sophomore seasons before taking fourth last season. She’s hoping to lead her team for one more ride.