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Spencer Taack’s transformation from position player to Crosscutters pitcher

Crosscutters starting pitcher Spencer Taack throws in the first inning against Trenton Thunder at Muncy Bank Ballpark, July 24, 2022. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

There was a fork in the road when Spencer Taack was in high school.

The Dallas, Texas native was a solid hitter and played the outfield at Plano West. But in Taack’s limited time on the mound, he saw a different path forward in baseball.

So, Taack continued to do his thing at the plate. His senior year, Taack batted .333, earned 13 RBIs with 18 runs scored and when it was all said and done, the righty finished out his final high school season with a 3.00 ERA.

Taack knew he could hit. What he wanted to work on was his pitching. Heading into college, Taack was looking for a school that’d allow him to do both.

“I never knew where my future would be brightest, either as a hitter or a pitcher,” Taack said. “I had different people telling me different things of course.”

Crosscutters starting pitcher Spencer Taack gives the thumb’s up that he’s ready to go before the start of the game against Trenton Thunder at Muncy Bank Ballpark, July 24, 2022. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

When it came to playing two ways, Henderson State University fit the bill. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound righty was able to sprinkle in some at-bats as he worked the mound.

Jumping into Division II ball was made easier, given Henderson being a smaller school. Much smaller than what Taack was used to.

“The atmosphere is a lot more different than other high school experiences. Just really big, lots of people,” Taack said on Plano West. “It was cool to get used to it in that aspect. It was kind of funny going to college, going to a smaller school. It was almost like downsizing.”

What wasn’t scaled down was the field of competition. But Taack saw better results each year. He gained confidence as he spent more and more time on the mound, slowly transforming from position player to starting pitcher.

His freshman year, Taack threw five games. The following season, he made 16 appearances in relief. As a junior, he led his team with 30 strikeouts and come 2021, he was a first team All-Great American Conference selection and the 2021 GAC tournament MVP.

“Each year was more fun than the last,” Taack said.

Taack finds himself among a Crosscutters pitching staff that’s been a force of nature on the other side of the 2022 MLB Draft. Collectively, Williamsport leads the league in strikeouts (499) and holds the second lowest ERA (4.48).

Behind their arms, the Crosscutters are also tied with West Virginia for the highest fielding percentage at .970 and have the fewest errors with 57 on the summer.

In his two games of the second half, Taack is 1-1 with six hits, six strikeouts and six runs. Altogether, Williamsport is currently on pace to strike out 716 batters, which would snap the current franchise record of 674.

“Their work ethic has been able to help each other grow. We’re all very committed here,” Taack said on the pitching staff. “We’re all here for a reason, and that defense being so stellar, that helps us out immensely. Us being able to command the game the way we have, that helps them out too. So really, just a well-oiled machine right now.”

In the MLB Draft League — and his first stint of pro ball — Taack is a far cry from his days hitting in lineups. He keeps some prior skills in his back pocket, like pinch running and fielding, but Williamsport is seeing a new version of Taack.

“As years went on, especially through college, pitching became my specialty and I had to give up hitting,” Taack said. “I did do both the first four years, never saw the field as much as a hitter, but got better and better at pitching each year. That became my new love.”

The Crosscutters remain in first place in the league standings and are in the midst of a six-game homestead. Williamsport’s defense has been the highlight of the club’s ride through the second half.

Behind starters like league Pitcher of the Week Nick Meyer and Blair Frederick — the latter of which holds a 1.10 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in his first three starts — Taack still has room to learn from, build around and heighten his ceiling.

“I had limited experience before college, but as I started to see a little more success, got some more innings under my belt, that just helped me want to keep going,” Taack said. “You get a little taste of success, it drives you to keep improving.”

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