PALM HARBOR— Two Palm Harbor University seniors signed National Letters of Intent this week to continue their academic and athletic careers at the next level. Rachel Taylor, a four-year varsity member of the PHU softball and soccer programs, officially signed on Monday to play both sports at Division III Maryville (Tenn.) College. “I've played at a competitive level in both sports all my life so I know I'm prepared for that challenge,” Taylor said of remaining a two-sport athlete in college. Four-year baseball letterman Brian Auerbach put pen to paper at a similar campus event Thursday afternoon. The 'Canes star right-handed pitcher will be attending Division II Rollins College in Winter Park.
“I postponed my commitment to get a few things covered, but I'm really excited now that I can finally complete it and be signed,” Auerbach said. “I'm ready to just go play baseball again.” Taylor pitched and played first base for PHU coaches Chuck Poetter and Kerry Katchuk in the spring immediately after completing her goalkeeping duties for PHU coach John Planamenta in the winter. “The experiences and the lessons that I learned with Coach (Planamenta), Coach Darryl Southard and Kerry (Katchuk) and Chuck (Poetter), they've really helped me grow and develop into the person I am,” Taylor said. Taylor advanced to the postseason all four years with both teams. She helped PHU soccer reach the Class 5A state final four this year and pitched PHU softball to a region final berth last season. “Rachel was one of those kids who was always good-natured and hard-working,” Katchuk said of Taylor. “People talk about her being a great player, but the truth with Rachel is that she's an even better person.” While Auerbach's PHU baseball teams didn't enjoy similar success, he's played a large role in setting the program on a course to future success. His performance on the mound and at the plate nearly willed the 'Canes to their first playoff berth since 2008 before dropping a Class 8A district semifinal game 2-0 at St. Petersburg. “Brian's worked hard over the years we've had him here and he set a great example for you younger guys that are going to continue to come through the program,” coach Joel Slawinski said during Thursday's signing event. Prior to graduation and moving on to life's next experiences, both Auerbach and Taylor will participate in a pair of well-regarded all-star games. Taylor is one of three North Pinellas softball players selected to the West Region roster of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association's 25th All-Star Softball Classic. She'll participate in the two-day, statewide tournament this Friday and Saturday at Forest High School in Ocala. Slawinski announced Thursday that Auerbach will be on the Team Pinellas roster of the eighth annual Rays High School All-Star Classic at Tropicana Field. The game pits seniors from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties against each other. firstname.lastname@example.org (727) 815-1071