JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Adversity is something everyone faces in life.
For ETSU fifth-year senior pitcher Peyton Taylor (Kingsport, Tenn.), the challenges he faced early in his Buccaneer career has helped mold him into a team captain for the 2017 season.
Going from a talented high school position player and pitcher at nearby Dobyns-Bennett High School to a walk-on at East Tennessee State University, Taylor’s road to success has taken numerous twists and turns.
However, the Kingsport, Tenn. native never gave up and continued to battle, which has helped him succeed both on the field and in the classroom.
After arriving on campus in the fall of 2012, Taylor knew he had to out-work and out-perform his teammates to earn a spot on the Buccaneer pitching staff. Following a successful fall camp, Taylor made his collegiate debut in a mid-week game against Wofford on Feb. 19, 2013 at Thomas Stadium. Taylor pitched two innings in relief as ETSU defeated the Terriers, 12-10. Following a handful of relief appearances, Taylor got his biggest call on April 1 when Coach Skole gave the Buccaneer freshman the ball for his first collegiate start against Radford. Taylor took a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the Highlanders.
“In college, I became more physical than I was in high school, and I also learned what it takes to be more successful on a consistent basis as a baseball player and pitcher,” said Taylor. “As a person, I feel that my maturity has grown from the adversity I have faced. I have also learned many life lessons from the game that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
The 2013 season was a historic one for the Blue and Gold as ETSU won the Atlantic Sun Championship en route to advancing to the NCAA Regional at Vanderbilt for the first time since 1981.
“The 2013 team was a special team to be a part of,” said Taylor. “As a freshman, I had a lot of older guys in our clubhouse to look up to and learn from during my first year here. Winning a conference championship with those guys was one of the best experiences I have ever had in baseball.”
Unfortunately, after earning a championship ring, Taylor’s career was halted due to a knee injury suffered during the 2013-14 season. He was forced to red-shirt his entire sophomore season as he was recovering from his second knee surgery of his career.
“I suffered the injury during the fall of 2013. I was running to first (base) to cover the play and get the guy out, but my knee just gave out. For the next nine months to a year, baseball was just taken away from me,” said Taylor.
He suffered the same injury during his early years at Dobyns-Bennett High School.
However, with the help of ETSU’s Athletic Training staff and support from teammates, coaches and family, Taylor began the road to recovery.
“I missed the game a lot. It was a lot of long days in the training room and a lot of doctor appointments,” said Taylor. “I remember specifically going to see a doctor, and he told me straight up how severe the injury was. He told me “I don’t want to beat around the bush. It is a very serious injury”, but the doctor said it is an injury that I can overcome and return to pitching.”
“I had a lot of good teammates that kept me up and supported me in the process. My coaches and family were there for me also. They were all the ones that got me through this process,” said Taylor.
Following the rehab process, the training staff and doctors cleared Taylor as he returned to the diamond during the 2015 season.
Taylor slowly regained his confidence on the mound as he made eight appearances with one start that season.
The road to success is never easy though. Taylor overcame a lot of adversity along the way, and he was faced with an opportunity to change his pitching style - moving from an “over-the-top” pitcher - to a “side-arm” delivery pitcher.
“Coach Skole presented the idea to me one day, and in the back of my mind I was questioning myself on if I could even do it. Prior to the change, I was having trouble being consistent, but dropping down my arm angle was something that changed my career and took me to the next level,” said Taylor. “I was able to be competitive on a consistent basis, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that change.”
He recalled his first true test of being a new “side-arm” pitcher when he faced Samford on April 17, 2015 at Thomas Stadium. Taylor came on in relief in the third inning and worked a then career-high five innings where he allowed just two runs.
From there he played summer baseball in Massachusetts where that new approach began to flourish.
“I knew at that point when we played Samford it was something I could do,” said Taylor. “That summer I went up to Massachusetts, and it really gave me an opportunity to work on my craft of being a “side-arm” guy. I think that was the best time in my career to take me to another level.”
During his red-shirt junior season, Taylor was one of the biggest keys to ETSU’s pitching staff as he made a team-leading 31 appearances, which ranked 50th in the country. He finished the 2016 season hurling 38.1 innings including a team-best five saves on the year. He struck out 24 batters while walking seven en route to his most successful season in his ETSU career.
After a recovering from two knee surgeries and proving to be a pivotal piece to the ETSU team, Coach Skole rewarded the fifth-year senior with a scholarship.
“It meant a lot to me receiving a scholarship. It is just truly special for my family and me personally, but it is not possible without them (ETSU coaches). I just want to thank them for giving me the opportunity and believing in me.”
However, his ETSU career is not over.
In his final season at ETSU, he has high expectations for himself and the team.
“I hope we can win a SoCon Championship and make it to an NCAA regional. As a freshman, that was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had in baseball,” said Taylor. “We went to Vanderbilt and played in the regional. I want to experience it again as well as help the team make a run in the NCAAs.”
ETSU Athletic Media Relations