Sherando Senior Taylor Loudan is Boys' Athlete of the Year
STEPHENS CITY — When the Sherando High School baseball team faced a tight spot during its playoff run to the Group AA state title this year, Warriors head coach Pepper Martin and assistant Craig Bodenschatz knew what to root for.
“We wanted a ground ball hit to Taylor [Loudan],” Martin said of his shortstop. “He played incredibly. Without a doubt, he was the centerpiece of our defense.”
Martin — who batted Loudan leadoff in his lineup — wasn’t the only Sherando coach who placed his faith in him, and the success of those teams is probably not a coincidence.
Last fall, the senior was a star running back on the football team who moved to quarterback late in the season when Reid Entsminger was injured. But throughout it all he was a running force (an area-high 1,592 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns) and lifted Sherando to a 6-5 record, its seventh playoff berth in eight years, and a 3-0 record against Winchester/Frederick County schools.
In the winter, he was the Sherando boys’ basketball team’s point guard (11 points, 3.8 assists), propelling the Warriors to a 14-9 record and the Northwestern District regular-season championship.
And this spring, Loudan’s sterling defense and 32 runs scored played a key role in what might be Sherando’s greatest sports accomplishment in its 20-year history, as the baseball team went 26-1 to win the program’s first-ever state title.
Loudan was a captain on all of those teams, and his ability to lead and produce while playing some of the most demanding positions in sports make him The Winchester Star Boys’ Athlete of the Year.
“He answered the call and wanted to do what was best for the team,” Sherando coach Bill Hall said in November, referring to Loudan’s move to quarterback.
“We trusted Taylor, and he did an outstanding job for us.”
The standout has never looked at taking on responsibility as a chore.
“I love being challenged,” said Loudan, who was all-district in his three sports. “[The positions I play] really challenge you as player mentally and physically, and that brings a lot of pleasure to the game. It’s a lot of fun.”
With that attitude, it’s no wonder that Loudan has never considered playing just one sport in an era in which, more and more, young athletes specialize. He swill even multi-task in college, playing football and baseball at Christopher Newport University, an NCAA Division III school in Newport News.
“I’m actually kind of sad I’m not going to play basketball next year,” he said.
Sherando must also be a little sad to see Loudan go.
His greatest statistical impact this year came in football, when he was named Offensive Player of the Year by The Winchester Star and of the Northwestern District (he also had 246 yards passing and 214 yards receiving).
But the impact he had on his other teams was no less meaningful, particularly in baseball, given the magnitude of what Sherando accomplished.
Though Loudan will not list one sport as his favorite, baseball has practically always been in his blood. He started playing football and basketball around age 10, but started baseball at 2.
And almost exclusively since he began playing, Loudan has been a shortstop, and he loves the position. He loves communicating with everyone from a central location, shifting sideways and forward for grounders, ranging back for bloopers, and making the tough throws.
And of course, if it’s an intense situation, he wants the ball.
“It’s not real fun when you’re sitting back in a game and thinking, ‘Oh, I hope he doesn’t hit a one-hopper that bounces right in front of me, I hope he doesn’t hit a slow roller, because I might not be able to make the play,’” Loudan said.
One of the things about Loudan that impressed Martin this year was how hard he and Sherando senior second baseman Jacob Carney worked at being the best they could be at their positions.
Martin said they were always asking for extra ground balls in practice so they could make those stops and throws deep in the hole, charge grounders and put themselves in the best possible position to make a play every time.
“It’s nice to go into a game thinking you’re capable of making any play,” Loudan said. “Taking those extra ground balls, taking every rep during practice, whether it’s [batting practice] or a drill, treating everything like it’s during a game, that really, during the actual games, gave me the confidence to make any play I wanted to.”
And beginning with the Region II quarterfinals, Sherando definitely needed Loudan and the rest of the defense to make plays.
The Warriors’ offense bludgeoned opponents during the regular season, but in going 6-0 over its last six games Sherando won by scores of 1-0, 5-4, 9-4, 5-3, 4-2, and finally 2-1 in the state-title game.
A shaky defense could have produced a loss in almost all of those games, but Martin had Loudan.
“He made all the routine plays, and he made a lot of excellent plays back there all year,” Martin said. “His fielding percentage was good [.913], and really, some of the errors he did have were on balls most people either can’t get to or wouldn’t try and get to.”
Basically, Martin always knew Loudan was going to step up.
Though his batting average fell from .417 to .295 from his junior year to his senior season (a drop Martin said is attributable to a three-game hitless stretch), Loudan was second on the Warriors in runs scored, and it was his one-out, nobody-on single in the sixth inning that led to his scoring the final, game-winning run on a Carney single in Sherando’s win over Tunstall in the state-title game.
Martin will also remember Loudan as the player who didn’t hesitate to move to center field (and excel) as a junior because he was blocked by Tre Porter at shortstop.
Sherando basketball coach Garland Williams is going to remember Loudan as the player who spent two years as a captain, and would give everything his 5-foot, 9-inch, 160-pound body had when he was asked to defend bigger players in the post because his team was so undersized.
Hall will also remember Loudan as the player who stepped up to fill a critical void at quarterback, then had his finest night when a home playoff game was on the line in the regular-season finale against Millbrook, rushing for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-14 win.
“He’s a leader who sets his personal interests aside for the team,” Martin said.
And though Loudan will now compete for Christopher Newport (he’s willing to play anywhere in the infield or outfield for baseball, and he’ll probably be a slot receiver or running back in football), he will never forget how much being an athlete at Sherando meant to him.
“Coming into Sherando, I wasn’t used to winning that much, but when I came here they really instilled a tradition in my head that you want to win every time you step out on the field,” he said. “That’s what I’m taking out of here.
“Every time I step out on the field now, whether it’s in practice to earn a starting spot, or it’s in a game, I’m going to take the approach that what you put in is what you’re going to get out of it. If you put in the hard work, you’re going to win.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1