After playing a critical role in the Ball State baseball team’s 2013 turnaround, Scott Baker is setting his goals higher than ever.
Winner of the inaugural Gregg Olson award presented earlier this week, he was recognized as Division I baseball’s “breakout player of the year.”
“This Gregg Olson award was kind of a shocker,” Baker said. “Because I didn’t even know if I would make the finals, and then I end up winning it, so it was definitely a big surprise.”
He was also named to the Louisville Slugger All-American Third Team, and to complete the trifecta, he was the Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year.
It was the Gregg Olson award that stood out the most to the right-hander. Even though he didn’t know it was coming, it was certainly deserved.
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching a lot of great players through the years, and a lot of great pitchers, but I’ve never had one win 12 games,” head coach Rich Maloney said. “What he accomplished this year was pretty special. Pretty difficult to do, nearly impossible really. To win almost every game is amazing.”
Baker won a program-record 12 games last season, but did not play even one complete game in 2011. His earned-run average was 6.15 as a freshman, as he allowed 34 hits in just 33.2 innings pitched.
The junior-to-be said the time between freshman and sophomore season allowed him to mature as a player.
“The biggest part was mental, and then just having another year,” Baker said. “Freshman year was getting into things, learning about how college baseball works pretty much. And this year we worked a lot on the mental side of the game, and that helped me out a lot.”
Maloney said Baker and pitching coach Todd Linklater were very “in synch” last season, adding that Baker fed off of what his coach called in games.
That relationship was important to Baker, who said he has to thank both Linklater and Maloney for how they were able to help him perform at a high level.
He is not an especially strong pitcher and has to work with what advantages he can.
“He’s not overpowering, but he’s a pitcher,” Maloney said. “He’s throwing 82 to 86 miles per hour, which is really nothing to write about. On the flipside of that, not many guys can throw four pitches per strike like Scott can.”
Baker’s 2.18 earned-run average, and team-high 88 strike outs, played a big part in his highly-decorated season. And for Ball State, his pitching helped to put together one of the most successful seasons in recent history.
“The year he had was spectacular, and it certainly couldn’t have happened to a nicer young man,” Maloney said. “He’s very humble and really gave our team a big lift to make the turnaround that we did this year.”
The Cardinals’ 31 wins in 2012-13 were more than in the previous two seasons combined. They capped the season with an impressive run in the MAC Tournament.
A loss to Bowling Green in the championship game kept Ball State from its first MAC Title since 2006.
“Next year I want to go out and try and win for our team,” Baker said. “As a team, we definitely want to go back to that MAC Championship game and try to win it.”
He has personal goals, too. Baker said he will hit the weight room this summer with hopes of becoming a draft prospect in the future.
Maloney has already pushed the rising star to keep working in the offseason.
“What I’m going to challenge him with now is to get in better shape,” Maloney said. “To get his arm strength up so he can be a draft pick. He needs to be able to throw 90 miles per hour, and with the current repertoire that he has if he is able to do that, then he’ll be a draft pick.”