Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Bisons baseball team struggled offensively last season and after losing top hitter, Richie Goodenow, Coach Jeff Forehand knew he would have to make a splash on the recruiting trail to shore up his team’s lineup.
Forehand did just that. And among 15 newcomers, including seven JUCO transfers, Forehand believes he and his staff have some players capable of helping Lipscomb back towards the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
When it comes to guys capable of coming in and making an immediate impact, catcher Taylor Stewart stands out from the rest.
A winner of the prestigious “Big Stick Award” given by the National Junior College Athletic Association to the nation’s 10 best JUCO hitters, the Sumner County native, batted a staggering .446 last season as the backstop for Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin.
“He hit well over .400 and he was probably the best JUCO hitter in the Southeast,” Forehand said. “We’re excited about him coming in and he immediately solidifies the catcher spot, along with fifth-year senior Logan Hostettler. You need to have two catchers you feel good about.
“Taylor is going to be a really good addition to our team. He had a really good year last year. It’d be hard to duplicate .400 but the JUCO conference he played in was good competition and it’s translated well to the Division I level for us in the past. If he can hit like that for us that’d be great.”
Stewart, a rising junior, is only 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, small for a catcher. But even without true home-run power, his bat, he believes, can be a big addition for the Bisons.
“I’ve got a contact swing but I can drive balls gap-to-gap,” Stewart said. “If I hit one out that’s fine but I’m always thinking line drive.”
Like a number of JUCO transfers, the Beech High standout had a number of options out of high school, including several walk-on opportunities at larger schools, but he elected to go the community college route and hone his skills. Behind his gritty work ethic, Stewart eventually made the decision pay off.
The offensive numbers spike he had last season, Stewart said, was the result of constant and intense practicing.
“I’d always been a pretty good hitter, but I made it a daily routine to practice my hitting and it paid,” said Stewart. “When you experience success like that you just want more. I know this year is going to be a challenge, too, but I think at any level you can be successful if you work hard. I plan on being in the weight room a lot.
“You know you’re going to have to compete coming to a new team. If I’m not better than the other guy then I shouldn’t play, but I’m going to do whatever I can to always be the best guy.”
The decision to come to Lipscomb, Stewart said, was an easy one.
“It’s a place I can see myself having success on and off the field,” he noted. “I know I’ll get a good accounting degree and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about Coach Forehand.”
Despite his strong numbers last season, Stewart said he still thinks of himself as a defensive catcher.
“I’ve been told whatever I can do at the plate is a plus,” he remarked. “My defense is most important but I hate to lose. I want to help the team offensively if that’s what they need. I’m wanting to make the catching spot a spot that adds something to the lineup. That’s a big thing for me.”
Forehand said he’s excited about Stewart and his fellow new players joining the team.
“We’ve seen Taylor’s ability and we think it will translate well for us,” said Forehand. “There’s always a sense of optimism for every new season. But after a difficult season like last year we really need a fresh start. There’s going to be competition at every spot and the guys know it. We think that’s always a good thing.”