Two years ago, Casen Taggart was a tall, lanky high school senior with exactly two choices in his baseball career: Centralia College or hanging up the cleats.
Now, he’s bound for Division I baseball.
A month ago, the right-handed glove and left-handed bat announced his commitment to play at Washington State, the culmination of a long summer that included a stint in a wood-bat league, a ring, and a pivotal prospect camp.
And at the end of it all, WSU head coach Brian Green had the ultimate surprise for Taggart: not just an offer to play in Pullman, but a full-ride scholarship at that.
“I didn’t really believe it,” Taggart said. “It didn’t feel real.”
After hitting .318 with 10 doubles in 41 games for the Trailblazers last spring, Taggart is set for one more season with Centralia, becoming both a sophomore leader and a success story for Ben Harley and his staff.
It’s been quite the leap from where he started, coming south as a freshman from Everett High School.
“He only had one offer out of high school, and it was Centralia,” Harley said. “What I saw was a tall, skinny left-handed hitter that also caught and had a really projectable frame, but really needed to get in the weight room, get after it, put on weight, and get bigger.”
That’s exactly what Taggart did. Even though he’s only growing taller — his estimation is that despite currently being listed at 6-5, he’s actually closer to 6-7 — he’s started to fill out his frame, and with that has come power at the plate.
Taggarts growth made him even more attractive to scouts. After coming to Centralia as a catcher, the Cougars are currently projecting him to slot in more at first base, and — after running a 6.7-second 60-yard dash — even working into the outfield.
“He can play so many positions, fill so many roles,” Harley said.
Following his freshman season at Centralia, Taggart got an invitation east to play summer ball for the Kalamazoo Growlers of the Northwoods League. In 23 games in the wood-bat league, he hit .291 with 22 RBIs, a home run and two doubles, drawing 24 walks to 12 strikeouts.
“That was awesome,” Taggart said. “It was really cool to be able to play with high Division I level players. I could see myself fitting in, so that was really reassuring.”
Taggart did more than just fit in. Come the end of the summer, the Growlers were bound for the playoffs, after winning the first half but going seven games under .500 in the second. Going on a run, Kalamazoo found itself in the championship game, where the Blazer went 2 for 4 with a series-winning, go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning.
Coming back to Washington, Taggart got to participate in a prospect camp in front of WSU coaches, who then themselves came west to watch him play in a fall ball game before ultimately giving him his offer.
Now, he’s got his sophomore season on deck. Knowing the Cougars’ plans for him, Harley said the Blazers are set to prepare him with more games at first and in the outfield and only the odd, once-a-week-or-so start behind the plate. After facing collegiate pitching for a summer, Taggart knows what he has to prepare for before he gets over to Pullman in terms of his approach and mentality.
And after coming to Lewis County like he did, Taggart gets a season to be a leader in the Trailblazer clubhouse, and help the incoming class start on the path he’s found himself down.
“For a kid that only had one offer out of high school to come in and work that hard and be able to go to that high of a level,” Harley said. “It’s just fun to be a part of.”