Booker, Taft named to 2A All-State baseball team

Published 10:22 am Friday, August 19, 2011

Taft (left) and Booker (right).

Two Polk County High School baseball players were recently named to the NCBCA All-State Baseball Team for division 2A.
Rising seniors Joel Booker and Roberto Taft made the 2011 roster after standout seasons as juniors for the Wolverines.
Coach Ty Stott said the two are players that can’t help but grab a lot of attention.
Booker as a centerfielder caught people’s eyes early in the year.
“Joel gets a lot of notice – people were constantly asking me where our centerfielder was going for college,” Stott said. “He hit some pretty long homeruns throughout the season and started out batting at third, which automatically turns a few heads.”
Booker set several records including a season batting average at .529, hard hit average, slugging percentage at 1,000, on base percentage .625 and multi-hit games with 14 on the season, Stott said. He said there are also a lot of career records Booker will likely brake within the first few games of next season, so long as he stays healthy and in the game. Booker has even participated in an invitation-only Atlanta Braves tryout.
Taft’s consistency on the mound made all the difference for PCHS last season, Stott said.
“Roberto’s the kind that will be able to pitch in college because he truly knows how to pitch, he doesn’t have to just rely on that fast ball,” Stott said. “He can throw his change-up and his curve and he can pitch inside. You have to really respect that inside pitch so much. If the pitcher has shown they can command the inside corner, that makes the batter have to really think.”
Taft’s a good athlete all-around, Stott said, with the ability to field a bunt and make a play on it. Plus, Taft has a hunger for competition.
“The bigger the team and the better the team the more he wants the ball,” Stott said.
Stott said Taft didn’t enjoy a year of easy games either.
Taft ended the season six and one as a pitcher after a disheartening loss to Pisgah in the playoffs. He took on this role despite originally being second on the roster behind Lucas Cash who was injured early on in the season.
“Every game he pitched was a big game, pitching conference games every time,” Stott said. “He had to pitch a lot of innings.”
The one game Taft lost was the game against Pisgah, which was a tough place to play with the fans loud and the players rough. Stott said he had no doubt though that Taft was the right one to take the mound.
“If he had been fresh he would have taken them seven rounds and we would have beaten them,” Stott said. “I said Roberto would be the best pitcher I ever had and he didn’t disappoint.”
Stott said Booker had offensively what was likely the best year he could have and Taft did too.
Stott said more than anything he’ll look to these guys to step up as leaders next year. He said both would have to be prepared to push their younger peers to be the best they can be in every game.
“Their going to have to do what is very hard and very uncomfortable for a kid and tell their teammates, ‘Hey look, we played terrible today and that’s why coach is getting on us – we have to step it up,’” Stott said.
That leadership, Stott believes, will hold a lot of weight and carry the team to success next year.

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