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NEWS, NOTES & COMMENTARY
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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Taylor still a winner in 2nd stint under Godwin

©2006 Bonesville.net

When the Pirates baseball team found itself with a commitment from left-handed pitcher Brody Taylor in December of 2004, then-coach Randy Mazey called it one of the best Christmas presents he had ever received.

Brody Taylor

Photo: ECU SID

Current coaches and Diamond Bucs fans have had reason to agree with that assessment lately, with Taylor posting a 5-1 record in 32.2 innings with a 1.55 ERA and just eight runs allowed in his six starts.

He pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only five hits, in a 3-0 win over Houston on April 2.

But for the Shelby native, coming this far East never crossed his mind when he was starting out at Louisburg College with his eye on Chapel Hill.

After a standout career at Shelby High School, Taylor chose Louisburg for its outstanding reputation for developing pitchers. He originally planned to stay just a year but then committed for his sophomore season as well, finishing his career there with a 21-2 record and helping Louisburg to a Region X championship.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” he said of his time at Louisburg. “Pitching wise, it just developed my game so much, just learning how to pitch, kind of having a feel for the hitter after his first at-bat, watching him during BP to see where he hits them hard and where he doesn’t.

"Each year of college you get smarter and smarter as a pitcher.”

After playing for two years at Louisburg, Taylor reached an agreement to play at Carolina. But there was a communication lapse between Taylor and Chapel Hill, and he was not cleared to start there in the fall of 2004. He returned home to take some classes and wait for the red tape to be cleared away.

But during those months, Taylor began to wonder if becoming a Tar Heel was really the right route for him. His parents sensed that he was interested in another option, and his former Louisburg Coach, Billy Godwin, called him that fall and pinned him down.

“Coach Godwin called me and said he wanted my input on what I was thinking, if I was thinking of going to Carolina or not, and I just kind of told him that after thinking about it, I didn’t think it was right for me.”

In just a matter of days, Taylor was back on the recruiting trail, fielding offers and making visits.

He was wowed by the environment at the East Carolina home game he attended, and all of the other pieces seemed to fit as well. The only drawback was the five hours his parents would have to travel to watch him play.

He became a Pirate, and with very little prelude earned a place in the starting rotation.

“My first game I ever was a part of at ECU was my first game starting here,” he said.

During that 2004 season, Taylor compiled a 4.64 ERA and won eight decisions in 15 starts, including a season-best 11 strikeouts against Charleston Southern.

With that foundation laid and his senior season in sight, Taylor was tripped up by the most difficult obstacle of his baseball career. He injured the labrum in his shoulder in the off-season and had to undergo surgery and 15 months of rehabilitation. It was, he said, a grueling process of recovering his range of motion and rediscovering his confidence from the mound.

“It took me probably a year and a half to just get back and find everything,” he said. “It was just something I’d never do again. I’d never have shoulder surgery again. I would just deal with the pain.”

Now he’s one of the team veterans with his eye ever on Omaha and a good feeling about the experience and skill of a squad that has come together with its new coach — the one who is also Taylor’s old coach.

“To really get to Omaha, we just have a lot of older guys who are going to have to step up and start showing the young guys on the field what needs to be done and what it takes to get there,” said Taylor, who was named Conference USA Pitcher of the Week last week after the Houston victory.

Godwin has won the confidence of his players on and off the field by working hard with them during practice and then letting them prove themselves during competition, Taylor said.

“He tells us every day, 'Ya’ll take the wins, I’ll take the losses,' " Taylor explained. "He says, 'Practices are for me, the games are for you. I just want to sit over there and let you do your thing.' ”

Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.

Click here to dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:12:58 AM

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