Taylor Hensley will never forget the first pitch he threw in a summer ball game before his pitching career really got started. The Augusta Christian ball player had thrown from the mound a few times in Little League and junior high, but when he took the mound in a summer league game at Westside High School he had little varsity pitching experience. It showed.
"The first pitch I threw I had a home run hit off me," Hensley said. "It was a bomb."
The senior pitcher has come a long way since that first pitch. On Tuesday, Hensley signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Middle Georgia College.
"I wanted to go to a junior college, and it was either there or South Georgia," Hensley said. "I had a tryout last Wednesday for pitching, and that's how it happened."
Hensley's pitching skills are worthy of college play, but his biggest contributions to the Augusta Christian squad the past two years came at the other side of the pitching/catching combination. On a baseball team that has three state championships over the past three years, Hensley has been the team's starting catcher and one of the best hitters.
"That's one of the biggest things we'll have to replace next year - finding a catcher who can run the defensive part of the team like Taylor did," Augusta Christian baseball coach Craig Johnson said.
When not a starting pitcher, Hensley set up behind the plate this season and called pitches for a Lion pitching staff that combined for a 2.72 earned run average. On offense, he hit .416 with five home runs.
"That was where he improved the most this season," Johnson said. "Last year he struggled a bit, and we even DHed for him a little bit."
As good as his offensive numbers were this season, the pitching stats were even better. Hensley led the team with a 7-1 record on the mound. In just more than 46 innings pitched, he gave up only 18 earned runs and struck out 42 batters. His 2.31 ERA was second best on the team.
Hensley said starting at catcher in between pitching starts helped him when he did get to the mound.
"It helped especially if we already played the team I was pitching against," he said. "You learn how to communicate with a pitcher and how to be a better pitcher."
That's why he'll shed the catching gear and become a pitcher at the collegiate level next spring. He'll also hang up the football pads after a high school career that saw Hensley and the Lions win a state championship in 2005 and return to the state title game in 2006.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.