Posted: Mar 07, 2019
By Sawyer Milam
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Making the leap from high school to college baseball can be a challenging transition for most young players, but for sophomore right hander Taylor Dollard, he was able to make an immediate impact for the Mustangs.
During his freshman year, Dollard made 19 appearances out of the bullpen and recorded 37 strikeouts over 40 2/3 innings and a .236 opponents' batting average. He earned three wins, three saves and led the team with a 2.43 ERA in his first season of collegiate baseball.
"Coming in, I wanted to have an impact as quickly as I possibly could. Turns out I ended up having a big role and it exceeding my expectations so I'm just hoping to build off of that and use that experience to go forward and help me in the future," Dollard said.
Dollard was a reliable reliever out of the bullpen for Cal Poly and, because of his performances in his freshman year, earned All-Big West honorable mention praise and was named the team's Jim Newkirk Fireman's Award winner as the top reliever.
"I was just given opportunities that I wanted to make the most of, and whenever I pitch I always want to be the best player I can possibly be and make sure I take care of my responsibilities to put us in a position to win," said Dollard. "Having great catching, great fielding and great coaching behind it just all helps put it all together."
He was called upon often by Larry Lee and put in a lot of high-pressure situations by coming out of the bullpen, but Dollard embraced those opportunities for a chance to help the team be successful.
When Dollard is on the mound with runners on base, all he tries to do is slow the game down and block out all the noise.
"You just have to breathe. The more you think about it and the more you let things speed up on you, that's when things go wrong," said Dollard. "My biggest thing when I'm out there is believing in myself that I can do it, and knowing that I'm here for a reason and turning all the chaos into a white noise."
All Dollard wants to do is help the team win and he doesn't shy away from the big moments in games. He is confident in his pitching abilities and knows he has the trust of his coaches to go out and execute.
"I love pitching in front of the huge crowds here and, on the road, I love the energy. I like the pressure in that type of situation. I don't even look at it as pressure. I look at it as an opportunity to be really good and just being able to have a big impact holding the games and putting us in a position to win games is what I came here to do," Dollard said.
Every time Dollard takes the field, he has a unique routine where he leaps over the foul line. With a hop, skip and a jump, he is able to calm his nerves and take the field with confidence.
"Ever since I was little, I never stepped on the foul line and it's just one of those ju ju type of things and eventually it's just a little hop, skip and a jump over the line. It just kind of relaxes me, kind of a routine thing, and it just prepares me to know it's go time," Dollard said.
Even though Dollard pitched in 19 different games last year and had a few outstanding relief performances, including pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in a win over UC Irvine, his first-ever game stands out the most.
"When we played in Surprise, Arizona, and in Game 1 we were playing Gonzaga and we were down 7-2 going into the ninth but we ended up tying it in the ninth and I came in to pitch in the ninth and then in the 10th ... to put up two shutout innings, then we ended up winning 8-7," said Dollard. "I cannot express the excitement, the energy, the adrenaline, everything that went in that first game I pitched for Cal Poly."
He thrives off of pitching in front of a large crowd and the atmosphere at Baggett Stadium is unlike any other and makes pitching in front of an electric crowd an unbelievable feeling for Dollard.
"There's no better place to pitch than [Baggett Stadium]. You've got the fans behind you the whole time, the energy they bring to the stadium and all the people whenever they come — it just makes everything that much better and, in my opinion, nothing compares to the Cal Poly fans," Dollard said.
But now in his sophomore year, not only could we see Dollard come on in relief, but he might also be a part of the starting rotation this season. So far he has pitched in two of the first seven games for the Mustangs out of the bullpen and has allowed 2 runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched.
Whether it's starting or relieving, Dollard is ready for whatever position the coaches ask of him.
"I don't really have a preference at all, and whatever Coach Lee decides is going to give the team the best chance to succeed is what I'm going to take and I'm going to run with it and do whatever he asks me to do," Dollard said.
Dollard credits Larry Lee for putting the team in the best situations to be successful and win games and knows Coach Lee will get the best out of every single player on the team.
"He's a character for sure. He knows everything and he teaches beyond belief. He gives us all a chance to succeed," said Dollard. "He builds us up, helps us when we need it and he puts us on the right track to be successful, one as an individual and two as a team."
The team has gotten off to a slow start so far this season, going 1-6 in its first seven games which includes sweeps by both Oklahoma and Cal.
Dollard knows the team has what it takes to turn things around quickly because the team is focused on returning to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2014 and competing for a Big West championship.
"Last year, just having a little taste of the situation with us being second place and stuff like that, it only fuels the fire," said Dollard. " We all play with a chip on our shoulder. I mean, we all want to see a Big West championship, we want to be in an NCAA Regional, and eventually even give ourselves a chance to make a run in late June.
"We're a big family. From top to bottom, everybody's family. I consider all these guys 35 other brother that I have," Dollard added. "I wouldn't trade any of these guys for anyone else in the country."
Dollard believes the tough schedule will pay off in the long run because everyone wants to compete at the highest level. He views it as a chance for the Mustangs to prove themselves that they belong in the postseason conversation and gives them the confidence that they can beat anybody in the country if they play their best game.
"Once we taste a little success, everyone wants it. You just see every guy is working harder and, to me, to have an opportunity to play huge programs and against really good competition is only going to make us better for when it comes later in the year," Dollard said.
Sawyer Milam is a senior journalism major from Sacramento, Calif.