06/09/12 — All-Area Baseball: Saints' Taylor named top pitcher by peers

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All-Area Baseball: Saints' Taylor named top pitcher by peers

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 9, 2012 11:12 PM

Jeremy Taylor has always possessed a natural competitiveness. Harnessing that inner struggle, however, was a different story ... until his junior season.

The Southern Wayne right-hander realized his collegiate future would be on the mound and his success hinged upon spotting pitches, making opposing hitters guess in the box and staying calm no matter the situation.

To say Taylor achieved that goal is an understatement.

During his senior campaign, Taylor threw the program's first playoff no-hitter in 11 years and earned co-pitcher-of-the-year accolades among his Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference peers. Taylor can add one more award to his prep resume -- the 2012 News-Argus All-Area Pitcher-of-the-Year.

"Once he realized that his ticket (to college) was on the mound, he really focused on becoming the best pitcher he can be instead of a hard-throwing guy who doesn't spot up pitches well," SW head coach Trae McKee said. "He worked extremely hard on his conditioning, worked extremely hard on his strength and committed himself before his junior season to change.

"The evidence is the result, which changed."

But Taylor had to hush those inner demons, too.

If he didn't get the call on a corner pitch, miss a spot or a teammate made a mistake behind him, he generally lost focus and the anger slowly increased each inning. Taylor challenged himself to find another way to channel those emotions, and he became nearly unbeatable when he toed the rubber this spring.

Taylor fashioned a 7-2 record and compiled an area-best 1.27 earned run average. He fanned 71 batters and surrendered 12 earned runs in 70.7 innings pitched.

"I've always been competitive and this year I learned to shake it off, instead of like last year when I tried to do too much, it just went downhill," Taylor said. "I learned to keep the anger out of it this year. My team helped me out a lot with their defense and run support, so (the award belongs) to them, too."

McKee said Taylor provided a calmness on the mound that relaxed his teammates behind him. Taylor always kept the Saints within striking distance of the opponent by using either an effective fastball or curveball as his out pitch.

Southern Wayne (18-10 overall) ended up in a three-way tie for second place in the ECC, won the tournament title and advanced to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

"With Jeremy, we as a coaching staff always knew that we were going to get a legitimate start whether he had his best stuff or not," McKee said. "He didn't get in trouble a whole lot this year and when he did, he found a way to pitch out of it. I think that was a credit to our defense, which was awesome especially in two-out situations.

"We found ways to make some plays."