Herald Top 5 memories: It was a tough way for a dominating pitcher to take a loss
Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks their top five memorable moments. Herald sports reporter Greg DeVillers continues his list with this No. 3 memorable moment.
Few baseball parks in the area can match the scenery of the park at Red Lake Falls.
A steep hill rises beyond the fence in left field, stretching over towards center. Running parallel to the first-base line and beyond a road is the Clearbrook River and its soothing sound as the water runs through the rocks.
Thirty-two years ago, the lighting at the park wasn't bright. And when Kerry Taylor was throwing bullets, the baseball wasn't easy to see.
I've never seen a more powerful amateur pitcher than Taylor. I can't recall watching a more dominant pitching performance than the right-hander put forth against East Grand Forks in the 1988 District 9A American Legion tournament.
And yet, in the unpredictable world of baseball, Taylor was a losing pitcher despite not allowing a hit.
Taylor’s fastball was clocked at 93 mph on the radar gun that season. He was difficult to hit when the sun was bright during the daylight. On this Sunday night, as dusk and darkness set in, East Grand Forks barely could get a bat on the ball to foul off a pitch, much less get a base hit.
Taylor came on in relief to start the bottom of the fifth inning with Tri-County of Karlstad trailing EGF 5-1. Over the next four innings, Taylor faced 13 batters. Of those unlucky 13, he struck out 12. The only batter he didn’t strike out in that stretch drew a walk.
"He was just dominating,’’ then-East Grand Forks coach Dave Aker said. “He pitched a fantastic game, probably the best I’ve seen a kid pitch.’’
But hitter No. 14 to face Taylor proved to be the right-hander’s undoing.
Mike Olson led off the bottom of the ninth by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That set up Olson’s dash around the bases for the winning run in a 6-5 East Grand Forks victory.
J.R. DeLeon followed Olson in the lineup and, on a fake bunt by DeLeon, Olson stole second and headed for third when Taylor threw a wild pitch on the play.
Tri-County catcher Troy Storeby retrieved the ball and tried to throw Olson out at third. But the throw was in the dirt and bounced past third baseman Chris Jerome. Olson slipped going around third, got up and continued home, where he danced around Taylor’s attempted tag to score the winning run.
“They can have the strikeouts. We’ll take the run and the win,’’ Aker said after the game.
Tri-County squandered several chances to pick up a win.
Taylor’s double down the right-field line in the sixth inning drove in two runs to tie the score at 5-5. Tri-County left two runners on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as EGF relief pitcher Corey Grassel limited T-C to five hits over the final five innings.
The overpowering performance by Taylor was no fluke.
Taylor struck out 81 batters in 44 innings for the season. He was more dominant the next season. In his senior year at Roseau High School, the right-hander threw two no-hitters and struck out 53 in 25.2 innings, allowing just nine hits.
He started the 1989 Legion season by striking out 17 of the 19 batters he faced, walking two. At that point, Taylor -- after not being selected in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft -- signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Twins. His $70,000 signing bonus was the equivalent of what second-round picks were signing for at that time.
Taylor eventually pitched in the majors for a year for the San Diego Padres.
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3. It was a tough way for a dominating pitcher to take a loss