Shelby Baker has a lot to like about multiple aspects of her game.
The Pickerington High School North softball team's senior catcher is proudest of an offensive approach that has seen her bat at least .400 each of the past two seasons and, through last week, belt 12 career home runs.Video •Watch an interview with Pickerington North softball player Shelby Baker.
But coach Sarah Looker applauds Baker's overall thirst for knowledge, as she constantly seeks information on opposing batters and has attended offseason clinics around the country to bolster her game as she prepares for the next level.
"I pride myself on my hitting, for sure," Baker said. "I am a math person so I find myself checking out my statistics. I love that stuff and seeing what I do best and what I have to improve on. There is nothing like the feeling of getting a big hit, an RBI or a home run when we need it.
"As a catcher, I study other girls' numbers and see what they've done and apply it to my calls for catching. I'll watch video and let our pitchers know what they should do in a certain situation."
Baker was batting .400 with 12 hits through nine games for North, which was 4-8 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Reynoldsburg on April 19.
That is the continuation of a path that began with Baker being promoted to varsity full-time during the second half of her freshman season. Two of her nine hits that year were home runs.
Baker batted .449 as a sophomore with 22 hits and three home runs in 15 games before being sidelined by an injured ankle, and she returned with a vengeance as a junior, leading the Panthers in average (.469), hits (38) and RBI (28) while hitting six home runs.
"Shelby has always been that person you can rely on, whether it's behind the plate or at the plate," shortstop Megan Bebout said. "We can trust her with our pitchers, and if there's a runner on third and she's up, we don't need to worry. Even if she gets out, she will help move runners. She is just always consistent and produces for us."
Looker said Baker, who has signed to play for Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, long has been willing to put in extra work off the field. Baker plans to major in organization and management studies and minor in business.
"She is constantly wanting to know about the histories of each hitter and their tendencies," Looker said. "She has certainly blossomed as a quality player. We started working with her when she was a freshman to groom her into a high-quality catcher, and Shelby really bought in."
Baker focused on her defensive skills this past offseason, attending a camp in Anaheim, California, run by former UCLA catcher Jen Schroeder while visiting family for Christmas. Baker said the lessons learned not only have helped her defense, but also have eased the transition as junior Maddi Schultz and sophomore Casey Madison have pitched in the absence of injured senior Emily Montgomery.
"It was extremely hard and very interesting to see how far you can go as an athlete," Baker said. "We focused on throwdowns and diving plays and throwing from my knees, and just the mentality of the game. Having so much energy helps your team."
Boys lacrosse team
seeks complete games
The boys lacrosse team has hung with top-tier competition this year, at least for a while, but coach Danny Gibson wants to see more complete efforts in the second halves of games.
North was tied with or within a goal of DeSales, Hilliard Darby, Saltsburg (Pennsylvania) Kiski School and York (Ontario) St. Michael's College, only to lose each of those games. DeSales was a Division II regional runner-up last year, Kiski finished last year as the second-ranked team in Pennsylvania and St. Michael's College is a perennial power in Ontario.
"The next challenge (is) playing a full four quarters," said Gibson, whose team was 3-6 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Hilliard Davidson on April 17. "The team has begun to see the needs that we must focus on to become a better team. We have played such good talent so far this year that the times we have done well have been when we have come together as a team and sold out for each other regardless of what we needed to do.
"We have been in games with top-tier talent in all but one loss and we have come out of halftime flat."
North lost to St. Michael's 16-10 at Kiski on April 8 and fell to host Kiski by the same score the next day. The Panthers earlier lost to DeSales, 17-9 on April 3, and Darby, 6-4 on March 23.
North began OCC-Central play with wins over Gahanna (13-6 on April 6) and Newark (17-0 on April 11) before losing 21-7 to defending Division I state champion Upper Arlington on April 13.
Boys volleyball team
preps for Tigers
Fielding an entirely different lineup than the one that powered it to a Division I regional championship last year, the boys volleyball team hoped it had found some solid footing as it prepared for a rematch with crosstown rival Central on Thursday, April 20.
North was 3-7 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on April 18.
The Panthers started 1-4 overall but won two of their first three league matches, 25-18, 25-16, 25-13 over UA on April 6 and 21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16, 17-15 over Gahanna on April 11.
Central won the teams' first meeting this season, 25-17, 25-17, 22-25, 29-27 on April 4. That marked the Panthers' first loss to the Tigers, who are coached by 2006 North graduate Luke Rininger.
Senior athletes make
Three North seniors announced their college destinations April 12.
Alec Bradbury will play baseball at Jackson College, Jalisa Hollingshed will play women's volleyball at Southwestern Oklahoma State and Jannie Kamara will compete in women's track and field at Miami University.