For Sterlington High center fielder Taylor Lockwood, LSU-Shreveport seems like the perfect place to spend his college years. With his family, coaches and teammates looking on, Lockwood signed a letter-of-intent to continue his baseball career with the Pilots on Wednesday morning in the SHS library.
Offering the mixture of quality academics and a perennially strong baseball program — the Pilots have won 40-plus games for eight straight seasons — LSU-S was just the school Lockwood was looking for.
“I like the school, I like the coaches, I like the business program and they have a winning (baseball) program,” Lockwood said. “It's unbelievable to have this opportunity. It's the best of both worlds.”
Lockwood isn't just saying the right thing when it comes to stressing academics. A 4.0 student, he plans to major in business and eventually attend law school.
“Taylor Lockwood is the prototypical student-athlete,” Sterlington coach Randy Carr said. “That's what everybody should strive to be. I'm so glad he has the chance to go play at the next level. He's just a fine young man.”
For LSU-S head baseball coach Rocke Musgraves, who made the drive from Shreveport to attend the signing ceremony, bringing Lockwood into the program was win-win proposition. Lockwood wasn't offered a scholarship based solely on his academic record.
“Taylor's the kind of kid you want to have in your program — a 4.0 student who can run and throw,” Musgraves said. “Those don't come along very often.”
Had he chosen to hold out longer, Lockwood would likely have had the opportunity to play at the Division I level. He could have certainly taken the junior college route. In the end, Lockwood chose to sign with LSU-S because of its attractive balance between academics and athletics.
Though LSU-S was the only school to offer a baseball scholarship, Belhaven offered to sign the 5-11, 160-pound Lockwood to a football scholarship.
Lockwood was the Panthers' starting quarterback for 2 ½ seasons, before moving to running back midway through his senior year. Averaging 9.3 yards per carry, Lockwood led the team in rushing with 828 yards and five touchdowns on 89 carries last season.
But Lockwood never gave playing college football serious consideration.
“I'd probably just get beat up at my size,” Lockwood said. “Ever since I've been on varsity, playing college baseball has been my dream.”
Musgraves expects Lockwood to be on the field for the Pilots sooner rather than later.
“Taylor has a lot of natural athleticism and he's very intelligent, which I think will help him make the transition to the college game a little smoother than most,” Musgraves said.
Now in his fourth season as a starter, Lockwood has played all three outfield positions for the Panthers.
Page 2 of 2 - Although his 2013 stats were not immediately available, it's safe to say that Lockwood leads the team in stolen bases through the first 10 games of the season.
“When Taylor gets a single or a walk, it turns into a double,” Carr said. “He's very difficult to throw out. God blessed him with speed.”
While Lockwood's speed and base running skills stand out, he is hardly a singles hitter. Earning All-District 2-2A honors, Lockwood hit .321 with three home runs, five triples, four doubles and 16 RBI as a junior.
As for Lockwood's next stop, the Pilots (14-7) are ranked No. 2 in the current NAIA national poll.
During Musgraves' 14-year tenure, the Pilots have advanced to the NAIA World Series three times, including back-to-back appearances in 2011 and 2012. LSU-S placed third in the 2003 World Series, fourth in 2011 and compiled a 54-6 record en route to finishing third in 2012.
LSU-S competes in the 15-member Red River Conference, which also consists of 11 schools from Texas, two from Oklahoma and one from New Mexico.
Academically, LSU-S offers 25 undergraduate degree programs and 12 master's programs to its 4,500 students. Over 75 percent of the faculty members hold doctoral degrees and the school's student-teacher ratio is among the lowest in the state.