Baker finds success at William Jewell
Emily Baker found herself far from the limelight of the pitcher's mound for much of her freshman season with the William Jewell softball team. But that doesn't mean her debut season was filled with disappointment.
Although Baker is used to having the outcome of a game rest squarely on her shoulders, she made the most of the opportunities she did get.
Baker occasionally found herself taking a turn at the pitching mound. But for the most part, the 2004 De Soto High School graduate spent the majority of her time starting in left field for the 35-17 Cardinal.
"I had a very good season," she said. "I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked, but it went well."
In hopes that she will get more playing time as a sophomore, Baker has already begun work on the 2006 season. Besides the typical weightlifting and conditioning sessions, Baker is trying to better her hitting and pitching games.
"The pitchers (in college) are definitely a lot better," Baker said. "It's different playing with girls that are that much older."
Baker said she had to get used to the longer days and longer practices. Practices in high school lasted two hours. Now she spends up to four hours a day trying to better her craft.
One of the more memorable parts of her first season were the tournaments and road games. The rest of her teammates must have agreed because William Jewell carried an excellent record throughout the travel portion of its schedule.
The Cardinal went 9-0 and won a round-robin tournament, in Orlando, Fla., as the tournament's only undefeated team. They also knocked off the then second-ranked team in the country in a tournament in Oklahoma City before settling for second place.
William Jewell finished third in its own tournament.
When Baker reached the mound, she put up some impressive numbers. In 13 innings she faced 55 batters and gave up seven hits and three base on balls, while striking out nine opponents.
Of the four runs she allowed, only one of them was earned. She compiled a 1-1 record for her efforts and shut down enemy batters to the tune of a .143 batting average. Baker's earned run average was nothing to sneeze at 0.54.
On offense, Baker was credited for five singles in 19 at bats and walked once. She scored two runs and drove in three runs. Baker hit .263 for the season. Her season on base percentage ended at .300. Baker put up a fielding percentage of .875.
With only one senior and nine freshmen on the Cardinal softball team last year, the future looks bright for Baker and her teammates.
"This year should be even more exciting," Baker said. "It's going to be great not being a freshman anymore. Hopefully I'll be able to get more pitching time."
Former Wildcat soccer player Jesse Smith earned his share of playing time at the next level as well. Smith played for the Johnson County Community College men's soccer team.
The Cavaliers sent a young, but competitive, team onto the field each night. In fact, Smith said JCCC should have won every single game they played last season.
After a 3-10 start, JCCC won 11 of its final 13 games and finished fourth at the National Junior College Athletic Association's national championships.
The national finish was second only to the third-place showing at the 2001 tournament. The Cavaliers also won their second straight East Jayhawk conference title with a 7-2-1 record.
Like Baker, Smith said that the adjustment from high school to college was tougher than he thought it would be.
"The competition was tougher -- everything was tougher," he said. "Before, I didn't really lift weights or condition. Now that's all part of the game. I've always been out of shape."
Smith said the reason the Cavaliers got off to a slow start was a lack of communication and defense. But with only two sophomores expiring their eligibility and eight freshman starters returning, the future looks bright for JCCC men's soccer.
When you add to the mix a solid incoming freshman class, there is no telling just how good the Cavaliers may be in Smith's sophomore season.
Smith has played the outside midfielder position at Johnson County and has had to work on his passing skills and positioning of the ball.
Smith scored two goals and dished out four assists during his freshman campaign. He scored both of his goals in a game against Neosho County Community College. Half of his assists occurred in games against Allen County Community College.
Smith played in 25 games and started in 13 of them.