“I do think I’m throwing harder this season,” said Baker, who played in the Rising Stars All-America game in Plantation, Fla., in October. “I’ve been working, doing weights all off season.”
Perhaps her biggest adjustment Tuesday was adapting to a home plate umpire who had a consistent but unusually high strike zone.
Baker walked Lydia Ladd to lead off the second inning and courtesy runner Taylor Johnson came around to score on a wild pitch and two passed balls.
In the fourth inning, Ladd again walked. This time, Johnson stole second and third, and scored on a passed ball as Johnson City took a 2-1 lead.
“I really had to adjust myself, because usually by the knees, it’s a strike, but every umpire is different, so I just have to adjust how they call their strikes,” Baker said.
Baker also struck out three batters in the first, second, third and sixth innings.
“She not only has a little more strength this year – she lifts hard and she works out – but she had a good summer travel ball season,” OHS coach Randy Brockway said of Baker. “She has confidence. Coming off of last year, she knows what she can do against these girls. With a new ninth-grade catcher (Alyana Roupp), who had a great game, she controlled the game pretty well and hit her spots.”
Offensively, the Yellowjackets hit their stride in the bottom of the fourth inning against the left-handed Ladd.
Trailing, 2-1, Baker led off Oneonta’s fourth with a walk. She then used her speed that’s so evident on a soccer field and helped the Yellowjackets to a Class B state title in the fall. Bekka Struble hit a come-backer to Ladd, who immediately turned and made an accurate throw to second, but Baker beat the throw, leaving runners at first and second.