Baker shines in freshman season

June 06, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

During her first few months at Humboldt State University, Melanie Baker had second thoughts about making the move to Northern California to play Division II softball.

Things weren't going quite as expected for the former Holtville High star as she was having difficulties adjusting to life far from home.

But as she began to get to know teammates and bond with them, she said things started to click. And it was by clicking with them off the field that things started working on the field.

Luckily for her teammates the 19-year-old Baker found her groove at the right time as she ended up being one of the Lumberjacks' biggest offensive threats this season.

She finished the 2001 season in the top five in five offensive categories for Humboldt and was top 10 in five categories in the Pacific West Conference helping her team to a 54-14-1 overall record and 14-5 conference mark.


"I think everything went great. I had a lot of fun this year," said Baker, who graduated from Holtville High in 2000. "When I first got there I really didn't expect to play my first year because the coach normally doesn't put freshman into his lineup."

But once Baker started connecting with her bat during practice she started separating herself from the other freshmen and earned a spot as the team's starting right fielder.

In high school, though, Baker wasn't known for her play as an outfielder, but rather as one of the most dominant pitchers the Imperial Valley has seen. Common sense would lead one to believe since Baker had great success as a high school pitcher she would want to continue in college. But for her, it was almost the opposite.

"I really wanted to hit more than I wanted to pitch. And if you're a pitcher over there you don't get to hit," said Baker. "I really like hitting more than I do pitching. I don't know why, I just do.

"I mean, if the coach really needed me to pitch, I'd do it. I'd do anything just to play."

For the season she finished first in the conference in total hits with 71, was fourth in home runs (7) and doubles (12), was fifth in batting average with .378 and her 31 runs was good enough for eighth.

Her offensive output led the Lumberjacks to third place in the NCAA Division II softball championships in Salem, Va., in May. Her play in the tournament earned her all-national championship tournament team honors. She was also an all-West region second teamer and was an All-Pac West conference and tournament selection.

So after a bit of a tough start things are working out for Baker and she feels the success she and the team had this year can be repeated in the future.

"We have a really good team and even before this year I expected us to do very well," said Baker. "Even though we're going to lose a few players next year, I still think we can continue this success."

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