Since getting off to a rough start this spring,
Butler (Vandalia, Ohio)
senior pitcher Taylore Cherry
has attempted to settle into each game by performing a series of mental exercises.
Batters had better hope the naturally imposing right-hander doesn't take a deep breath before they step in. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and with a fastball consistently in the low 90s that tops out at 94, Cherry has been almost unhittable for the Aviators now that he's found his groove.
Cherry, a University of North Carolina signee with one eye on the amateur draft that will be held June 4-6, also packs in a changeup in the mid-80s and a slider, along with two-seam and four-seam fastballs to keep batters off-balance.
"It was extremely frustrating, but you just have to get out there and keep working hard and good things will happen," Cherry said. "My personal trainer has done some breathing exercises with me to help me release some tension and reminded me to only worry about the things that I can do."
The Aviators won a Division I district championship a year ago, but started 7-9 before beating Fairmont (Kettering) 12-2 on April 20 to begin a 10-game winning streak. Cherry has been tough to beat since then.
On May 8 in the first round of the district tournament, he struck out 12 and gave up just five hits as Butler beat West Carrollton 4-1.
Cherry has gone 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA through his first nine starts with three shutouts. He also had 68 strikeouts through his first 45 innings.
Butler, which was seeded sixth for the Cincinnati district tournament, was 17-11 overall before playing eighth-seeded Lebanon in a district semifinal today.
"I got off to a bit of a rough start, and just the past couple weeks I've been pitching better," Cherry said. "I just worked a lot on my mechanics because my mechanics were falling apart early in the season. Eventually they've gotten a lot better."
Overcoming adversity is nothing new for Cherry. As a sophomore, the Aviators were seeded third for the district tournament, but were upset by Sidney 10-8 in their tournament opener as Cherry struggled.
He bounced back last season to be selected the Gatorade Ohio Baseball Player of the Year after going 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA with one no-hitter and 94 strikeouts in 56 innings.
In the postseason last year, Cherry started but didn't pick up the decision as Butler beat Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati) 6-5 in a regional semifinal. The Aviators then lost to Lakota East (Liberty Township) 7-0 in a regional final to finish with a 27-3 record.
"He started off slow, but he's been lights out lately," said Trent Dues, who is in his 18th season and has more than 350 wins as Butler's coach. "He's a power guy who throws anywhere from 88 to 94 depending on the day, but he's also got a nice slider and changeup. He keeps you off balance, but can also blow you away.
"He's not very a temperamental type of kid. You really can't tell if he's happy or upset. In our first tournament game his sophomore year he just had an awful outing, and he's had some adversity this season. He had trouble finding the strike zone for a while. We've also had trouble finding a catcher who could handle his speed."
Cherry attended West Milton schools until the eighth grade before enrolling in the Butler school district about 15 minutes away. An only child, Cherry spent some time playing basketball when he was younger before electing to focus on baseball.
Cherry began playing for the Midland Redskins from Cincinnati during the summer before his junior season on a part-time basis. Cherry helped the Redskins reach the Connie Mack World Series last August in Farmington, N.M., where they won their third consecutive title.
On Aug. 14 of last year, Cherry pitched one inning for the East All-Stars in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in Petco Park. Among his teammates was Solon senior Matt Smoral, who, like Cherry, has signed to play for North Carolina.
"I threw for one inning (in Petco Park) and it was the most amazing inning in my whole life," Cherry said. "It was the coolest thing ever to be a part of. They set us up in a Marriott Hotel and we got a five-star dinner. There was a big ceremony and they gave out some awards. Just being there in general was amazing, and it was a pretty decent crowd."
Cherry could find himself in front of crowds that go well beyond the 7,953 in attendance for the All-American Classic over the coming months. Cherry was ranked No. 2 among pitchers in his class in the nation by Perfect Game and could have his name called early on draft day.
"I've had quite a few scouts show up to my games this year," Cherry said. "It's kind of nerve-wracking, but you've just got to get through it. You never know what's going to happen."
Jarrod Ulrey has covered prep sports for ThisWeekSPORTS.com for 17 years and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.