Edens becomes key VMI playerPublished 8:56pm Saturday, March 1, 2014
Former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball player Taylor Edens started out his sophomore season with the Virginia Military Academy Keydets as a pitcher to watch, and he proved it on an epic stage this past week.
On Tuesday, VMI faced off against No. 1 University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The Keydets had a 2-1 lead when Edens took the mound in relief and pitched the rest of the game, earning the save in a 3-2 win.
It was VMI’s first win over a top-ranked opponent since it hosted U.Va. to defeat in 2010, and it was the first time VMI had beaten the Cavaliers on their home field since 1990.
“Definitely, I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life,” Edens said. “It was awesome to beat them.”
In five innings pitched, he allowed one run, two hits and had one strikeout.
Edens said he was pleased to be hitting his spots and keeping the ball low while not leaving it over the middle.
“I felt really good about my performance,” he said. “It was definitely a good start to the year, looking to build off of that.”
He was also sure to deflect the credit.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “We’re still just soaking it in.”
The win was also a joy for his fans back in Suffolk, including NSA head baseball coach David Mitchell, who knew full well the significance of beating the talented Cavaliers.
“To go into their backyard on their home field and to beat them is awesome, and for him to be on the mound to get that last out, that’s even more exciting for him,” Mitchell said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime-type opportunity.”
Edens appears on track for more special opportunities. Before this season even began, he was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Stopper of the Year Watch List. This means he is among the top 50 relief pitchers in Division I college baseball.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “It’s really cool to see all the work paying off.”
He expressed thanks to his coaches for their help and God, as well.
“He’s blessed me a lot,” Edens said. “I’m just really thankful and honored and appreciative of where I am now.”
Hard work at Nansemond-Suffolk helped pave the way for his opportunity at the Division I level. He had an impressive 2.52 earned run average as a college freshman, but acknowledged the big step up in difficulty from high school.
“It’s a whole other world, basically,” he said.
The one or two hitters who are really good in high school have been replaced by eight or nine each time out, he said. The challenge to face them has been physical, but also mental.
The world of relief pitching is already an intense one, as it can often involve entering a game with a narrow lead to protect or even a deficit that cannot be allowed to grow.
“It can really pressure you and feel like the whole stadium is coming in on you,” he said.
The U.Va. game was a great example where this could have been overwhelming. But he said he has found mental self-talk to be important in handling the pressure, slowing the game down in his mind so he can consistently execute his pitches.
Edens is feeling good about his college career so far, but is always look to improve. His short-term individual goal is to log five more saves this season and have an ERA under 3.00. His long-term goals include being an all-conference player and playing at the professional level.
He is set to gain more valuable experience later this year that should help him in achieving all of those goals.
“This summer, we’ve signed him on to a contract with the Peninsula Pilots,” Mitchell said, where he will face top-level collegiate players and Major League Baseball draftees.