Freshman Taylor Stark Having A Great Season

Mississippi State freshman right-hand pitcher/outfielder Taylor Stark is surprised at how well he is doing his true freshman season. As a freshman, he has been outstanding on the mound with a 2-0 record, 2 saves and a 2.25 earned run average while striking out a little more than one hitter an inning.

"It really has surprised me how I have done as a freshman," said the 6-0, 184-pounder. "You come in here wanting to help the team out any way you can but I didn't think I was going to do as well as I have. I'm very grateful that I can even play for this team."

But the MSU coaches saw something in the fall that they liked about Stark and he's continue his great pitching into the spring.

"This is the best I have ever pitched in my life," said Stark, who has allowed just 4 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks while striking out 18 batters in 16 innings this season. "I think I threw 88-89 (in the fall). But I hit 94 on our gun at Tennessee. It's just (MSU pitching) Coach (Butch) Thompson has us on the bands and working our body really hard."

Although he can throw his fastball in the low 90s, another pitch is his out pitch - his slider, which is possibly one of the best sliders in the Southeastern Conference.

"My slider is a pitch I can either throw for a strike or get somebody to chase," said Stark. "It's one of the pitches that I have the most control of. I can do anything I want with it. I throw it hard like a fastball and it goes up, then goes down."

To be the pitcher he feels he can be, Stark realizes there are still some things that he needs to work on.

"My command could be a little bit better and I think I can be smarter when I have two strikes on a hitter," said Stark. " I haven't given up many hits but I think I could get more strikeouts if I develop more command on two strike (counts). But I think as I get older I will figure hitters out better."

While his pitching has stood out this season, he has also gotten the chance to play a little outfield and hit. His future, according to the MSU coaches, is to be a Bobby Thigpen type dual guy - play in the outfield and come in to close out games. Stark relishes the idea of being a dual guy.

"I love getting up there and making hitters look bad but I also love getting up to the plate and hitting, and also playing defense," said Stark.

But when he first got to State middle infield seemed to be where he was going to play in the field. That is until he ran a sixty-yard dash.

"They were looking at me as a second baseman but when I got here I ran a pretty good 60 (yard dash) time," said Stark, who ran a 6.39 second 60 for the coaches. "After that, I kind of migrated to the outfield. It was a big adjustment but I finally got used to it."

Stark almost wound up elsewhere in the SEC. But the State coaches discovered him while watching a former Mississippi State pitcher.

"I had always wanted to come here but they didn't really talk to me much my junior year," said Stark. "I think State got interested when they came to watch Luke Bole pitch and I hit a couple of home runs off of him.

"I was probably going to commit LSU because they were one of my bigger offers, but (MSU assistant) Coach (Lane) Burroughs got me up here a couple of weeks before school started. And I liked everything about it. I liked (MSU head) Coach (John) Cohen, obviously, and I liked all the other coaches. The facilities are great and the atmosphere is awesome."

Stark ended up signing with State over offers from LSU and Ole Miss. But State's coaches still had to deal with the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.

"I was drafted in the 42nd round (by the Washington Nationals)," said Stark, who was drafted as a pitcher. "I (also) had a fourth round bid from another team (who called before the draft). (But) I told them not to waste a pick on me since I'm going to college anyway. I figured I needed to mature a little bit more."

And so far Taylor Stark's decision to attend Mississippi State has worked out great for he and Mississippi State baseball.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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