In collegiate sports, players come and go, but we’ve learned that legends stay forever. That sentiment rings true for Louisville softball’s Taylor Roby. Although we may not be seeing her sport the #8 jersey again for the Cardinals, the legacy she leaves behind will have a resounding effect—like the crack of a bat. From highly-touted high school star to decorated collegiate All-American, Roby transformed into a hometown hero right before our eyes down on S Floyd St. The story of her becoming a ‘Louisville slugger’ is a notable one, influenced by a dream and the support system in place to achieve it.
“When I was little, I always had the big dreams that I was going to play college softball”, Roby recalled. “Throughout all my years, I’ve gotten told that I wasn’t good enough or that I was overrated. You have to be able to believe in yourself and believe that you can achieve your goals, and I’m glad that I was able to do that in my hometown.”
Playing for Bullitt East High School in Mount Washington, Ky (just south of Louisville), Roby quickly distinguished herself as one of the state high school players in the state at a young age. She committed to the University of Louisville early in her sophomore year and continued to get better and better. Outside of high school, she played travel ball for the Louisville Lady Sluggers, where she met legendary coach Don Dobina. A prominent figure for both the university and the local community, Dobina made a lasting impact on the lives of many before tragically passing away in 2016. His words of wisdom influenced Roby’s decision to join the program early as a senior in high school.
“It was a little chaotic”, Roby said of the process. “Dobina always mentioned that I should go early. After his passing, I got the call from Louisville and they offered me to come early. So I just thought it was kind of meant to be because he always made comments to me. It was definitely a learning adjustment for sure; but me coming in early, I don’t regret it. I think it shaped me into the player I am today. It was an eye opener for sure; I got humbled really fast at my first practice, essentially swinging and missing at every pitch.”
During Roby’s freshman season at UofL, the program announced that were it renaming the field after Dobina, in order to recognize his legacy. Her two-way abilities were put on full display as she went 14-4 with a 2.62 ERA in the circle, while batting .287 with four home runs. The highlight of the season was a walk-off single against rival Kentucky, while helping the Cards into the NCAA tournament. Louisville entered 2020 with substantial momentum, until COVID turned things upside down in March of that year. The pandemic halted the softball season right in its track, as it did with many things across the world.
“I think it showed you how much we actually appreciate the sport, because as soon as that season ended, we didn’t know what was going to happen. It got to the point where a core group of friends would just go to the middle of the park and start throwing because we missed it. Not only did it highlight the appreciation, but it also reminded us to never take it for granted”, Roby explained.
Roby pitched over 160 innings in the next two seasons, and hit double-digit homeruns in 2021 and 2022, but Louisville ended up on the outside looking in as it relates to the NCAA tournament. With an extra year of eligibility remaining, the decision come back for “one last ride” was a no-brainer.
“It’s always your goal for every team is to make the tournament and I think it was unfortunate that we always came up short in those seasons because it felt like we were around the bubble”, Roby said. “However, I never hesitated on coming back; when I got asked, I said yes right away because I do love this program and playing for my city, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
It ended up being a decision that was very fruitful for the Cardinals’ star. She posted a 10-7 record as a pitcher, achieving a 2.47 ERA as she split pitching duties with Alyssa Zabala, Sam Booe, Taja Felder, Gabby Holloway, and Cassie Grizzard. At the plate, she was nothing short of incredible. After hitting .360 for the season with 23(!) homeruns, Roby ended the year as the program leader in career homeruns and single-season homeruns, while being recognized as NFCA Second-Team All-American.