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UW star softball pitcher Taran Alvelo grateful for second chance after high-school shoplifting incident

The thing she remembers most about that phone call is how badly her hands were shaking. She says her body was convulsing, too, and that her words were barely comprehensible. One day earlier, Taran Alvelo Ohio s all-time wins and strikeouts leader had pitched her high-school softball team into the state-championship game. Now she was telling Washington coach Heather Tarr she had just been cited for shoplifting. At that moment, Alvelo was convinced her UW scholarship had gone kaput. She figured her longtime dream of pitching for the Huskies would remain a fantasy.

But just as Alvelo was tearfully expressing her worst fears, Tarr chimed in with the most reassuring words she could find.

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Taran you re ours, Tarr said. We re going to have your back no matter what. Flash forward two years later, and Alvelo is the starting pitcher for a Washington team set to take on Utah on Friday night[2] in the NCAA Super Regionals at Husky Softball Stadium. She is an All-Pac-12 hurler whose 183 strikeouts were good for second in the conference. She has beaten the nation s top-ranked schools and has become a favorite among teammates. Teammates that, for a moment, she thought she had lost forever.

A dark period

You can t talk about Taran for long without mentioning her father Aaron. It was Aaron who first noticed Taran s talent as an 8-year-old, and Aaron who she considers her best friend. For 10 years, Aaron devoted himself to developing his only child s abilities whether it be working with her privately or spending cash on travel ball. The result was Taran transforming into one of the top 10 recruits in the country. Aaron also was the varsity softball coach at Bloom-Carroll High in Carroll, Ohio. And in Taran s sophomore and junior years, he helped guide the Bulldogs to two state-championship-game appearances, including a title in 2013.

Aaron, however, did not coach the team during Taran s senior season. He resigned after getting caught embezzling more than $5,000 from team fundraisers, which prevented the team from playing in a tournament in Florida. Aaron didn t feel comfortable talking to The Seattle Times for this story, but Taran said the money went toward making ends meet. She didn t know her father was stealing, but she did know her family had become desperate financially.

A lot of people don t really understand until you re in that situation, Taran said. You can say it, and you can preach it and try to explain it, but nobody knows what it s like until it s questionable if there s going to be dinner on the table. Life had been dark enough with her father facing a fifth-degree felony charge. Add to that a falling out with some friends and teammates, and something was about to give.

It all came to a head on June 4, 2015, after Taran tallied 11 strikeouts in a 10-0 win in the state semifinals. Later that night, Taran stopped into a Kohl s department store in nearby Lancaster. Playing over the speaker was Maroon 5 s She will be loved one of her and her former best friend s favorite songs which Taran said caused her to become emotional. A few minutes later, as she was leaving the store, a security guard grabbed her by the shoulder and asked for her purse. Inside was $128 worth of stolen merchandise, which included a pair of tennis shoes, three rings, a necklace and earrings.

Taran swears she doesn t know what happened that she essentially blacked out. She said she can t recall any activity between hearing the song and being stopped by security. What she remembers vividly, however, is the security guard s reaction.

She looked at me and said, You can say bye bye to your college scholarship. And then I looked at her and she just went, Pathetic, said Taran, who had never had so much as a speeding ticket before or since. And I looked at her, and I just said, You re right. I am pathetic. I d never been in trouble before in my life. I had a scholarship. I had everything handed to me and I pissed it all away.

Early commitment

Taran s school colors in elementary school were purple and gold. Same was true of her colors in middle school. In 2009, her travel-ball team played a tournament in Oklahoma City two days after Washington won the College World Series[3]. Taran remembers scooping up some dirt with purple and gold confetti.

Suffice it to say, Alvelo felt destined to play for the Huskies and wasn t compelled to shop around. She committed in August before her freshman year of high school, calling Seattle home as soon as she stepped off the plane.

My dad was like, Let s at least see campus first, Alvelo said. Sometimes you just know. That s why the first call Taran made after her shoplifting citation was to Tarr. It s why she was shivering while holding the phone by her ear. Court appearances, fines, public humiliation she could deal with all that. But missing out on her dream school would have made her inconsolable. Had Taran s offense occurred earlier in the recruiting process, Tarr admits she might have second-guessed her. But given all the time she had spent communicating with her, she trusted her prized pitcher s character. Taran had been committed to the Huskies for the past four years, and the Huskies were going to stay committed to her.

Supportive calls from future UW teammates came in immediately, and, boy, was Taran glad for the support. Not only was her name all over the news, but her transgression forced her to miss the state-championship game, which her team lost, 4-0. Suddenly just going to the grocery store became agonizing. Everybody knew her now. She could feel eyeball daggers whenever she stepped out in public, and she couldn t get to Seattle soon enough. And even though Taran had been assured she wouldn t lose her scholarship, it wasn t until Tarr picked her up from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and gave her a hug that she truly felt safe. That was the moment she knew her second chance was official.

I can t explain how thankful I am for coach Tarr and everyone who stuck by my side, Alvelo said. It s this debt I can never repay.

Life-changing moment

You probably have questions. For instance: What happened to Taran s dad?

According to court records, Aaron Alvelo was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $5,500 in restitution after pleading guilty. That money was on top of the $5,400 in stolen funds he already had returned, according to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. In court, Aaron, who s still married to Taran s mother Teresa, told the judge, I am truly sorry for this. There s not a day that goes by that I m not remorseful and regretful. Taran maintains that her dad is the best man I know. What about Taran? Was she sentenced? No, she said she had to make a few trips to court during her freshman season, but in the end, only had to pay for the items she took. She said she did so, and was able to get the conviction expunged from her record.

What kind of place is she in now? A really good one, actually. Sure, you can tell the shoplifting incident weighs on her sometimes. She s convinced there was a reason it happened she just isn t sure what the reason is.

But she also said it shaped a lot of who she is today, and maybe that s reason enough. Once one to bottle up her emotions, Taran started seeing a psychologist, and as she put it, has gotten really good about talking about my feelings. She added she wants to work in education and reach out to kids who have made mistakes to let them know that they don t define them. She has also built her village around herself, as Tarr said, fostering healthy relationships in a way she didn t always have back home.

The face of the team

But if there has been one constant that has carried over from high school to college, it s Alvelo s pitching. At 31-6, Alvelo leads the Pac-12 in wins and sports a 1.94 ERA. She can throw fast, she can throw with a change of speed, and she can throw up in the zone.

She began this season by leading the Huskies to a 2-1 win over second-ranked Auburn, then beat top-ranked Oklahoma, 1-0, two days later. And last week, after tossing her first career no-hitter vs. Montana, she beat Michigan twice in the regionals to help the Huskies advance to the Super Regionals[4].

She s the face of the team, UW shortstop Ali Aguilar said. She s the one that keeps us in games. Taran has a chance to take Washington to the College World Series with two wins over Utah. But ask her about a victory, and she ll shake you off.

The reality of pitching at Washington has lived up to her expectation, and considering she almost lost that reality, she s just going to savor each pitch.

I don t necessarily look at the game as winning, Alvelo said. If I focus on winning and winning and winning, l lose track of the little moments that make it worthwhile.


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16-year-old wounded in shootout with police

16-year-old Wounded In Shootout With PoliceBuy Photo

File photo(Photo: The Detroit News)Buy Photo

Two 16-year-olds were arrested, and one was shot, after an alleged robbery at a bus stop on Detroit s west side spilled over into a CVS store and a shootout with police early Thursday morning. Detroit police received a 911 call at 4:58 a.m. The caller said that a robbery had just taken place at a bus stop near McNichols and Wyoming, said Michael Woody, director of media relations for the Detroit Police Department. Some five or six males were reported to be involved, and reported to be armed. At least a few of the suspects were spotted running into a nearby CVS. A security guard and a clerk had been held at gunpoint toward the front of the store, Woody said, but officers arrived by 5 a.m. That CVS, a 24-hour store, is on the 10000 block of McNichols, just west of Wyoming. Officers quickly arrested one suspect and recovered a weapon in the middle of the store, Woody said.

As officers moved toward the back of the store, a second unit covered the back door in case suspects tried to flee, Woody said. That s exactly what happened, but when the suspect went out the door and saw officers, he allegedly fired shots. Officers fired back and struck the suspect. How many times he was hit was not immediately known, nor was his condition. He was taken to a local hospital as was undergoing surgery Thursday morning, according to authorities. When officers made the arrest, they recovered a weapon from the suspect and shell casings from the gun, Woody said. Police believe that three to four more males who took part in some aspect of the incident are still on the loose.

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Residents on high alert after 3 attacks in 2 days in downtown Indy …

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. Some women living and working downtown are on alert after three attacks in parking garages this week. Monday and Tuesday, a total of three women reported three different downtown Indianapolis assaults, including two for sexual battery. Two attacks, reported as battery and sexual battery, were reported at a garage at East St. and Market St. on Monday morning.

In the second case, the woman had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. Police believe both are connected. Then another report of sexual battery came from a garage at Michigan and Delaware on Tuesday. The garage manager, concerned that woman was robbed and almost raped , sent an email to company and city officials urging them to hire a security guard.

But IMPD survival tactics trainer Officer Patterson notes security can t be everywhere at all times.

Put your cell phone away, said Patterson. Pay attention to your surroundings. Look back every 10 or 15 steps if you re by yourself, just a casual look back every once in a while. Patterson says some people are too worried about being polite. They avoid reporting suspicious people out of fear of offending, possibly putting themselves in danger.

Even if they don t mean you any harm, at least get them checked out, said Patterson. My question is why are you hanging out in a garage? If you re not going to your car, what s the purpose? Besides being prepared with a self-defense plan, Patterson s most important piece of advice is to listen to your gut.

Typically, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up, said Patterson. If something tells you, Hey something isn t right, listen to that!

The company that runs this garage is working to get additional security for the garage.

And if you want to learn self-defense, IMPD s downtown district is offering free classes, you just have to give them a call.

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