Salt Fork grad Taylor back in familiar confines

Salt Fork grad Taylor back in familiar confines

DANVILLE — There was an ironic element to Tuesday night's Prospect League showdown between the Danville Dans and Terre Haute Rex that may have gone overlooked by most in attendance at Danville Stadium.

Connor Taylor stood on the mound for visiting Terre Haute during the eighth inning. Dans supporters tried their best to rally the troops as Taylor aimed to withstand the pressure of holding a 2-1 lead for the Rex.

Here's the kicker: Taylor, the young athlete those Danville rooters were hoping would surrender the advantage, is actually a former area standout.

"It's always nice playing in the old Danville Stadium," the 2016 Salt Fork graduate said after getting tagged with the defeat in an eventual 3-2 setback. "My alma mater. It's always a great experience to come back and play at the historical stadium."

Taylor was able to keep an upbeat attitude despite the Dans getting to him Tuesday. Perhaps it was because the recent Danville Area Community College graduate was able to visit with family after the game.

Or maybe it was because Taylor is receiving plenty of work in his second year with the Prospect League.

After pitching in a few games with the Quincy Gems last season, Taylor has appeared in 12 of the Rex's 35 events in 2018.

Across 18 1 / 3 innings for the West Division's leading squad, he's collected a 3.92 ERA with 27 strikeouts and two saves.

"It's been a great experience so far," Taylor said. "I'm typically a starter, but they've been using me in a reliever (and) closing role, so it's a little bit different. I'm getting playing time, so it's good."

Tuesday marked Taylor's second stint of the season against the Dans. The first went a little more smoothly, as Taylor fanned two foes while earning the save.

"I guess they're our rival, being so close in the conference," Taylor said. "It's fun, very competitive."

Taylor is also enjoying one of the key differences between summer ball and the high school/college style: wooden bats.

"As a pitcher, you take any advantage you can," Taylor said. "It's a lot better than having people hit bombs off the wall."

After helping Salt Fork to fourth place at the 2016 Class 1A state tournament during his senior year, Taylor turned in a pair of productive years with the DACC baseball program.

Earlier this year, the right-hander paced all Jaguars hurlers in wins (eight), innings (65) and strikeouts (75) while tying for the team lead in complete games (four).

One connection from DACC that has continued with Terre Haute involves former Centennial star Alec Thomas.

The ex-Charger didn't travel for Tuesday's tilt with Danville, but Thomas carries a 5.60 ERA and 25 punchouts in 17 2 / 3 innings worked for the Rex this year.

"We're roommates as well, up in Terre Haute," Taylor said. "So it's been good having a close friend that I know."

Next up for Taylor, beginning with the 2019 college campaign, is a spot on coach Chris Ramirez's Illinois-Springfield baseball roster.

"It's not too close to home, but it's not far away as well," Taylor said. "I look forward to getting in there and helping the team out as much as I can."