Will Taylor’s long-awaited return required a little more patience from the freshman Friday night.
Back on the field for the first time since tearing his ACL with the football team in early October, Taylor debuted with the Tigers’ baseball team as the designated hitter in the team’s series opener against Georgia Tech. Taylor, batting sixth in the lineup, stepped into the batter’s box against Tech right-hander John Medich in the first inning, but his first collegiate at-bat was put on ice after Max Wagner was thrown out trying to steal third to end the frame.
“Honestly, it was great for me because I got to see a good mix of his pitches,” Taylor said. “The at-bat didn’t count, so I got to do it again the next time.”
Taylor wasted little time against Medich to lead off the second. He smacked Medich’s second offering of the frame back through the box and sprinted down the baseline to finish off his first career hit, showing no ill effects from his surgically repaired right knee.
Taylor was officially back.
“It was very exciting,” Taylor said. “Hadn’t felt that excitement in about seven months. So it was good to be back out there, and hopefully we can keep this going.”
Clemson, fighting for its postseason life, picked up an important 9-3 win over the Yellow Jackets, and Taylor, who finished 1-for-4 with a run scored, became the first athlete at the school to play football and baseball in the same season since former defensive lineman and pitcher/first baseman D.J. Reader (2012-13), who’s now with the Cincinnati Bengals. A receiver and punt returner on the football team, Taylor had corrective surgery after sustaining the injury against Boston College on Oct. 2 and had been working his way back ever since.
Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee said a couple of weeks ago that Taylor was “getting close” to returning to competition for the Tigers. Once he was able to get through the team’s scrimmage Wednesday without any issues, Taylor said he knew he was ready to be put in the lineup.
“We knew this was exam week and we didn’t have a midweek game, so I was looking forward to the scrimmage we had on Wednesday,” Taylor said. “After Wednesday, I felt 100% confident I could go out here and play to the best of my ability (Friday).”
At this point, Taylor said he’s experiencing “very little” soreness in his surgically repaired knee and hopes he feels good enough to be back in the lineup when the teams go at it again Saturday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Lee said the plan is to try to play Taylor in the field today and then alternate him between the two roles moving forward, though Lee added he will proceed with caution with his freshman outfielder.
“We want to see how he does,” Lee said. “This is not going to be a set-in-stone thing with Will. We have to see how does he feel (today)?”
Thanks to the help he said he’s gotten with his rehab from the training staffs in both sports, Taylor’s debut on the diamond was a success in more ways than one.
“They’ve done an unbelievable job getting me back this quick,” Taylor said. “It’s been long days and short weeks. I’m ready to get back out here playing and help this team win.”
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