KO's 6-foot-7 left-hander Lehman is turning heads
TribLIVE Sports Videos
When Keystone Oaks baseball coach Scott Crimone approached senior Taylor Lehman before a mid-March exhibition game in North Carolina, he was not alone.
Fifteen scouts surrounded Crimone and Lehman, a 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher who has been clocked at 92 mph this season.
“(The scouts) weren't there last year, so I walked over to him, smiled and said, ‘This is kind of different.' ” Crimone said. “He just said, ‘I'm kind of used to it by now.'
“It's not bothering him, which is awesome.”
Crowds have started to accompany Lehman this season, but the added pressure hasn't rattled the Penn State recruit. If anything, it has made him better.
After lengthening his stride to take advantage of his long, powerful legs, Lehman has matured into perhaps the WPIAL's most feared pitcher — at minimum its most physically imposing.
Not only does Lehman throw hard, consistently registering 86-89 mph, but he has added a sharp slider and a splitter to a looping curveball that he loves to throw backdoor to lefties.
“I really didn't stride much at all last year, but I've been working on being more flexible and stronger with my lower half,” Lehman said. “It wasn't all arm, but I wasn't using my legs as much as I should have.”
Even without much of a leg drive, Lehman went 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 24 2⁄3 innings as a junior, topping out in the low 80s.
The longer stride and increased focus on building his shoulder muscles has added between 6 and 10 mph.
It has not, however, changed Lehman's demeanor.
“He's humble,” Crimone said. “He's not letting all this attention get to him.”
Lehman opened the 2014 season by striking out 12 in seven innings to beat Hopewell, 3-2, on March 27.
After his outing Monday against Allderdice was rained out, Lehman will start Friday's Section 3-AAA opener against Trinity at Consol Energy Park in Washington.
It's doubtful the Wild Things' ballpark will be sold out, which means there will be fewer people than have seen him pitch around the country.
“It became easier over the summer because college coaches would be watching me,” Lehman said. “I kind of got used to that. In October, I pitched in a big tournament down in Florida. There were so many scouts there.”
A year after Jared Skolnicki went 11-1 to lead the Golden Eagles to a 20-6 record and their first PIAA Class AAA playoff berth, Lehman is aiming for similar success.
He's joined by sophomore Nick Riggle, who shifts from first base to shortstop after hitting .306 with six doubles and 16 RBIs last season.
Seniors John Beveridge and Kevin Tunney will man corner infield spots, with Beveridge also serving as the No. 2 pitcher and an occasional outfielder.
Senior Walt Hepner can play multiple positions and provides speed at the top of the order. Junior Ben Canty is a returning starter at second base.
“We really like our lineup,” Crimone said. “It's speed at the top, speed at the bottom and some power in the middle.
“We're going to try and move runners and do a lot of running this year.”
Which, in a way, is ironic.
Because when Lehman's pitching, that's about all opposing teams are able to do against Keystone Oaks (1-1).
“I hear some chatter in the dugout — look at all the radar guns,” Crimone said. “We're trying to make sure it doesn't get to them, but they see it as an opportunity. We're hoping that they embrace it and enjoy the attention that we're going to get.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Return of 5 starters boosts prospects of Frazier baseball team
- California: What will Trojans do for an encore?
- Fun in the sun for Rams; others cold & wet
- Young Belle Vernon Area baseball team could start 7 sophomores
- Latrobe baseball forming ‘building blocks’ to succeed
- Brentwood baseball team bolstered by 9 returning lettermen
- Previewing the 2015 WPIAL baseball season