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Sherwood grad helps Corvallis team win the WCL title

PHOTO COURTESY OF CORVALLIS KNIGHTS - Sherwood High School graduate Zak Taylor shines at catcher for the WCL champion Corvallis Knights this summer.CORVALLIS — Ah, summertime.

It's the time when the days are warmer.

It's when the sun stays out later.

And, for Zak Taylor, it's when his game really came together.

Taylor, a 2015 Sherwood High School graduate and a sophomore-to-be on the Oregon State University baseball team, had a blistering-hot summer playing baseball for the Corvallis Knights of the West Coast League, a college wood bat league, which wrapped up its season on Tuesday.

“The summer was pretty big for me,” Taylor said Wednesday morning. “I got a lot of at-bats, ad I got a lot of work in behind the plate, and at first base. It was a really good summer.”

Taylor, and the Knights, finished their season in championship fashion. The former Sherwood star helped the Corvallis squad score a 6-4 win over Bellingham, Wash., in the decisive Game 3 of the best-of-three West Coast League championship series, played Tuesday at Goss Stadium in Corvallis.

“Overall, that kind of packed our summer into one day,” Taylor said of the championship game victory. “To do that felt great. That was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of.”

Taylor drove in a run for the Knights with a sacrifice fly in the win. Also, playing at catcher, Taylor made a diving tag at home plate, getting Bellingham's David Baneulos out on the play, for the Knights in the win.

“That was a great relay from our center fielder, to the second baseman to home,” Taylor said. “The throw took me out a little bit, but I was able to dive back and get a glove on him. That was pretty exciting. The stadium erupted.”

The home crowd also went crazy later, as the Knights celebrated the final out, and the championship, with a dog pile on the field.

“That was awesome,” Taylor said.

Taylor is used to making big plays.

At Sherwood, he was a four-year starter for the Bowmen, playing at first base, shortstop, third base, pitcher and catcher during his time with the squad.

As a Bowmen senior, Taylor was an All-Three Rivers League first-team pick at catcher. He also was a Class 6A all-state first-team selection at catcher.

During Taylor's senior year at Sherwood, he signed a national letter of intent to play college baseball at Oregon State University.

In 2016, his freshman year with the Beavers, Taylor played in seven games, starting two. He hit for a .125 batting average, with one hit, and three RBIs in eight at-bats, all while playing behind standout OSU catcher Logan Ice.

“It was a developmental year,” Taylor said of his first season with the Beavers. “I didn't play a tone, being behind Logan Ice, but I picked his brain a lot and watched him. That really helped me out.”

Tommy Paul, another 2015 Sherwood graduate, pitched for the Beavers last year. He put together a 3.97 earned-run average and a 1-0 record. He pitched in eight games, 11-and-a-third innings total.

“That was awesome,” Taylor said of Paul. “Especially since he's one of my best friends growing up.”

Oregon State went 35-19 in 2016, but wasn't awarded an NCAA tournament bid.

“We thought we did enough to get in,” Taylor said.

That may have helped fire up Taylor for his summer season with the Knights.

“Oh yeah, the OSU guys definitely used that for motivation,” Taylor said.

Whatever the reason, Taylor took off in a big way for the Corvallis team during the summer season.

“Playing time was a huge part of it,” Taylor said. “Getting at-bats and playing every day, day in and day out, really helped. I could see the improvement. I had a better idea what I was doing at the plate. And, from a defensive aspect, it was good to get in there every day.”

In 40 regular season games, he hit for a .306 average, with 43 hits in 130 at-bats. He also had one home run and 14 RBIs. Taylor finished in sixth place in the West Coast League in batting average, while having 14 mulit-hit games.

Taylor also earned All-West Coast League second-team honors for his play this summer.

“This summer was a big confidence-booster for me,” Taylor said. “It was a good period of adjustment.”

Adley Rutschman, a 2016 Sherwood graduate, and a future Oregon State Beaver, also played for the Knights this summer, hitting for a .259 average, with 10 hits, including a pair of doubles, in 39 at-bats.

Now, Taylor, Paul and Rutschman, the Sherwood trio, will be looking to help Oregon State return to postseason play in 2017.

“I can't wait,” Taylor said. “We're going to be really ready for the season.”

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