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SN's Baker takes the cake: Firebirds star named top 3-A player by NCBCA

Posted on June 17, 2022

School SportsSports
Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.
Southern Nash junior Landen Baker pitches the ball during an NCHSAA 3-A playoff game at Fike on May 10. Baker was named the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 3-A Player of the Year after sweeping the top honors in the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

paul@wilsontimes.com | 265-7808

Landen Baker had a tough decision to make about his athletic career as he approached his junior year at Southern Nash High. A standout in both football and baseball for the Firebirds, Baker opted to focus on baseball this past year and the results were historic in nature.

Earlier this month Baker was recognized by 2-A/3-A Big East Conference varsity baseball coaches as the league's player of the year AND pitcher of the year. This week Baker was honored by North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association as its 3-A Player of the Year on its 3-A all-state team.

“It was definitely crazy man but it just feels good,” Baker said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said that Firebirds head coach Todd Brewer let him know he's the first Southern Nash baseball player to earn a state player-of-the-year honor.

Baker was simply the Firebirds' biggest weapon at the plate and on the mound. He crushed 12 home runs, which tied for third statewide, and his 38 RBIs ranked eighth across the state in all associations. He batted .425 with 30 runs scored and seven doubles.

Southern Nash's No. 1 pitcher, Baker fanned 99 batters in 59 innings while only walking 17. He finished 8-2 with a 1.54 ERA.

“Landon had a year that will be hard to replicate by anybody, I think,” Brewer said.

Of course, Baker will have another year to try and do just that. While he does plan to return to the football team this coming season, Baker said that taking a year off to focus on travel baseball certainly was the right move for him, even after earning all-conference and Wilson Times All-Area acclaim as a sophomore offensive lineman.

“It was a really hard decision to make,” said Baker, who is playing with the Wilson American Legion Post 13 baseball team this summer. “But I thought it would be best just to focus on travel ball because we play in the fall and I was going to have to miss some football games and it just wasn't going to work out. So I decided not to play and it ended up working out for me. But I'm actually playing football this year, so I guess I missed it.”

Brewer said the quality of the competition that Baker saw playing travel baseball helped spur him to new heights on the mound and at the plate.

“I think in the fall it really helped, baseball-wise,” said Brewer, coming off his eighth season as Firebirds head coach. “He did a lot of traveling, went to a lot of really big tournaments and saw a lot of really good competition. I think playing against really good competition just makes you better and seeing that all fall helped him really up his game. He hit it really hard in the weight room and getting in shape. … All of that really came to fruition this season. I've never seen anybody have a season like he had and not only at the plate with all the big hits and home runs but then to turn around and get on the mound and – I'd hate to say 'unbeatable' because we did lose some games with him out there – but we only lose one of his starts all year and that was in the playoffs.”

Baker, who was also a starter in basketball for the Firebirds this winter, had three double-digit strikeout games and nine multi-hit games as the Firebirds went 16-7 overall and 10-4 in the 2-A/3-A Big East, finishing tied for second with 2-A Roanoke Rapids, two games behind 3-A Northern Nash.

“He's got that ace mentality of, 'Give me the ball, and we're going to win.' And that's not something you can teach,” Brewer said.

Facing their old 3-A Big East Conference rival Fike in the first round in Wilson, the Firebirds made a quick exit from the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs with a 6-2 loss. Baker's only other mound defeat was a 6-4 loss to Bunn in conference play.

Baker said that he knew that his offseason dedication to baseball was going to produce results, he just didn't know they would be as dramatic.

“Well, honestly, I didn't see 12 home runs coming but I knew I was going to have a good season after taking off football and just working on baseball hitting every day, throwing and working on my pitching,” he said. “I knew I was going to have a really good season, I just didn't know it was going to be this good, to this extent.”

While his 2022 season will be hard to top, Baker knows one sure way to do it.

“Now, personally I know that there's not too much more I can do, but team-wise, I want to go deeper into the playoffs,” he said. “We haven't won a playoff game in like 15 years. Definitely, that's the goal of next year is to win some playoff games and hopefully go far.”

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