By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
In his baseball career, 2010 Hokes Bluff High School Taylor Shields has experienced a lot of big moments.
Perhaps the best was when his Jacksonville State team won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Battling back in the loser bracket, JSU won six straight games to win the program’s fourth OVC Tournament championship. The Gamecocks defeated Tennessee Tech, 4-2, I the title game.
“That was huge,” he said. “We lost our first game (to Eastern Kentucky) and had to win out to win the conference. After we did it, it was almost like, ‘How did we do that?’”
The conference title meant that the Gamecocks won the right to play in an NCAA regional tournament. Shields had a chance to pitch against Georgia Tech, against whom he allowed just six hits and one run in 6.1 innings.
“Growing up, I never thought I’d have a chance to pitch against a national power,” Shields said. “It was fun and competitive at the same time.”
Against the Yellow Jackets, Shields pitched 6.1 innings and allowed only seven hits and one run.
JSU lost to Georgia Tech and Ole Miss in its first regional since 2010.
Shields wasn’t on that team, as he pitched two years for Calhoun Community College in Decatur, where he won second team All-Alabama Community College North Division honors as a sophomore.
Shields also had plenty of highs in high school as a part of the Eagles’ 2007 and 2008 state championship teams.
“It’s like two different feelings,” he said of comparing a state title to winning the conference. “I grew up with all the guys at Hokes Bluff, but being in the regional was something I’ve never seen before and didn’t really expect to, especially after that first-game loss.”
For the season, Shields pitched 90 innings, striking out 52 and accumulating a 4.40 ERA.
Also local players contributing to the Gamecocks’ success were senior pitcher Bradley Raulston and freshman infielder Josh Bobo.
Raulston pitched 41 innings this season and finished with a 1-0 record with 42 strikeouts. The 2010 Southside High graduate was a first-team All-State pitcher and was The Messenger’s Player of the Year as a senior.
Bobo collected nine hits and three RBI in 42 innings this season. As a senior at Etowah High, he was an honorable mention All-State player. He collected 39 RBI to go with his .400 batting average.