Jake Baker hits Free State past Lawrence, 10-2

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State High's Jake Baker shows the swing that produced a 4-for-4 night with 5 RBI in 10-2 victory over Lawrence at Hoglund Ballpark Monday night. (Carter Gaskins)

Jake “The Hit Maker” Baker had a nice week in one night Monday at Hoglund Ballpark in a one-sided city showdown.

A strong, 6-foot-4, left-handed hitter who plays right field for Free State High, Baker produced a hit and at least one RBI in each of his four trips to the plate, leading the Firebirds to a 10-2 victory over Lawrence High.

Baker used the entire field, rapping a couple of singles to right and one to center. In his final at bat, he blooped a just-fair, two-run double to left.

“It’s huge for my confidence,” Baker said of his perfect night. “You never want to say you’re in a slump or anything, but I haven’t been putting the ball in play the way I’d like to. But then today, seeing the good pitching we saw from LHS, putting good swings on the ball, it was nice for that to happen.”

A junior, Baker will leave Free State as a three-year varsity player, a nod to his talent given how competitive the program is on a perennial basis.

“Every BP, all the outfielders scoot back when he steps in,” said teammate Harrison Hughes, a senior. “He just hits it to the fence every time.”

Hughes’ path to a varsity uniform wasn’t as predictable as Baker’s.

“Didn’t come out as a freshman, cut as a sophomore, barely made it (the JV team) as a junior, probably by the skin of his teeth,” Free State coach Mike Hill said. “Yet, he kept working, kept at it, really wanted it.”

Hill has been reminded frequently of how much playing in varsity games means to Hughes.

“He wasn’t satisfied with just making it,” Hill said. “He wanted to play and he’s earned the right. He was in my ear all the time, and that’s OK. I like that. He’s earned everything.”

Hughes produced quite the memorable senior night, a three-run double to left standing as the highlight of his 2-for-4, 4-RBI night.

If not for his perseverance, Hughes never could have built that memory.

“I love the sport,” he said. “I love being around my friends, and it’s always been a goal of mine to play varsity baseball.”

Parker Gay reached base four times and scored four runs. Kyle Abrahamson reached three times and scored twice and second baseman Colter Maldonado showed he’s more than a good glove with a double to left. Leadoff man Jake Rittman, a talented shortstop, went 2 for 4 with a walk and scored two runs.

Free State (13-6) built leads of 4-0 and 8-1, and when it looked as if the Lions (8-11) might be mounting a comeback in the fifth inning, reliever David Stuart shut them down.

Lions junior Payton Cummins hit a one-out double to the left-field corner and Andrew Stewart (2 for 4 and a walk) drove him in with a double to left-center. Stuart replaced winning pitcher Ethan Bradford at that point and retired 7 of 8 batters, four on strikeouts.

Lawrence 000 110 0 — 2 7 0

Free State 202 420 X — 10 13 2

W — Ethan Bradford; L — Ethan Taylor.

2B — Andrew Stewart, LHS; Harrison Hughes, Colter Maldonado, Jake Baker, FSHS.

LHS highlights — Stewart 2 for 2, walk, RBI, Payton Cummins 2B, run.

FSHS highlights — Jake Baker 4 for 4, 5 RBI, Parker Gay single 2 walks, HBP, four runs, Harrison Hughes 2 for 4, 4 RBI, David Stuart 2-2/3 shutout innings, 4K.