Leaving a legacy built to last
Christian Taugner sure knows how to cement a legacy.
In one day -- one game against East Aurora -- the Lake Park senior pitcher put his stamp on the program by becoming its all-time leader in victories. Adding to the history, he also broke his own record for strikeouts in a game with 15 and threw a no-hitter.
In simpler terms he became the greatest pitcher in Lake Park history.
To top off the day the previous leader in victories, Keith Connolly, was on hand to throw out the first pitch and take in Taugner's talents. Everyone anticipated Taugner breaking the 30-year-old record, but few envisioned the sheer dominance.
"Very memorable," Taugner said. "It was just a great day for me, my team and my family to experience something like that."
For an exceptional season that capped a tenure filled with achievement, Taugner is the 2013 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area baseball captain. He is the first Lake Park baseball player to earn the honor.
Three years in the making, Taugner's senior season went as he dreamed until a season-ending loss in the Class 4A St. Charles East sectional semifinals. Up to that point, everything fell into place and then some.
Checking off team goals and individual goals went hand in hand as Taugner swept through an amazing streak of games on the mound. His teammates followed Taugner's lead and set out to win rare hardware for the program.
"He's just a leader," said Lake Park senior catcher Tom Spear. "I think we do have an extra confidence when Christian's on the mound. Catching him for three years, it's been an awesome experience."
Led by a core of three-year starters in Taugner, Spear and pitchers Eric Vatch and Mark Pall, Lake Park's senior class was determined to leave its mark this season.
By sharing the Upstate Eight Valley championship with Neuqua Valley, the Lancers won their first league title since 1996. When they beat York in the Class 4A Schaumburg regional final, it became the first time the Lancers won conference and regional titles in the same year since 1973.
"Our whole team was looking forward to this year," Taugner said. "During the whole process we grew together as a family."
Among Lake Park's 27 victories, Taugner claimed 10 wins. For the season he went 10-2 with a 0.80 ERA, 8 complete games and 7 shutouts.
During the Lancers' critical stretch to win the UEC Valley title, Taugner won seven straight UEC games with six shutouts. Leading up to the season-ending loss to St. Charles East, he posted six straight shutouts and had a 43-inning scoreless streak in his starts.
"We saw him as a sophomore and you could tell he was going to be good," said Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner. "He's just so confident and attacks the strike zone. And he just brings everyone around him up a level. When he's pitching, they're probably going to win."
If you had to pinpoint Taugner's definitive strength, it was attacking the strike zone. He touched 90 mph at times while striking out an area-high 108 batters and walking seven in 70 innings: a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Playing with the Illinois Sparks last off-season, Taugner attracted major college interest during the summer and committed to the Ivy League's Brown University in Providence, R.I. Had he waited Taugner likely would have attracted multiple offers, but the educational opportunity at Brown couldn't be passed up.
"It just felt right to me," he said. "And it helped me put all my focus on my senior season."
Taugner's record-breaking effort against East Aurora on May 4 was forged in previous off-seasons when conditioning and arm strength exercises anonymously set the stage for one of the greatest overall campaigns in program history.
In addition to his pitching accomplishments, Taugner also hit .349 with 26 RBI. Being in the best physical shape of his life showed on the field and proved to be an example to his teammates.
"For everything he's done, he's one of the most humble players you'd ever see," said Lancers coach Dan Colucci. "People look at him and the way he carries himself, and they follow his lead."
It's been that way since his first varsity start sophomore year against Glenbard East, the first of his 24 wins against only 5 losses. That victory began a run toward three all-UEC honors and two straight selections to the Daily Herald All-Area Team.
"He's obviously our ace," Vatch said. "He's always consistent with everything he does. We've just grinded through everything together like brothers. He's been the leader of the staff since sophomore year."
The graduation of four three-year starters leaves a gaping hole in the Lancers' lineup heading into summer ball. A good amount of the hole, though, is filled by the memories left by a remarkable team and one particularly remarkable player.
In stats and stature, Taugner led the way.
"Ever since I was 8 years old I feel like I've worked hard enough to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish," he said. "I just do my thing and try to be a leader through my actions."
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