Categorized | Sports

Munford’s Baker earns scholarship to DSU

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Jessyca Baker shined with her bat for the Lady Cougars and her traveling team to earn a scholarship to Delta State.

Those who have worn the Munford Lady Cougar Softball uniform for the past few years know Head Coach Glenn Goulder takes a set on a bucket to view the game.

The last three years Jessyca Baker has been right next to him patiently waiting on her time to shine. When Baker entered the program three years ago as a freshman, sophomore Amanda Levin earned the spot as the everyday catcher.

Baker made the best use of her time when Goulder called her to action. And the incoming senior took full advantage of learning the game while in the dugout.

“My favorite place when I’m in the dugout is on the bucket,” she said. “I get right up to the front of the fence to know everything that is going on. You can ask me plays and I’ll know exactly what happen from being so into the game. If you’re called on at any point and time, you have to know from the blindside what you have to do.”

With a coach’s view of the game, Baker added her advanced knowledge of the game with the skills she learned with her father Jody Sigler in travel softball. Displaying her skills from Florida to Oklahoma, Baker earned a scholarship to NCAA Division II Delta State University.

“This day means a lot,” Jessyca’s mother Dayna Baker said. “To see my one and only child get ready to go off to college. She’s been playing for 12 years. She started off with all boys for the first two years over in Brighton. Then we moved over to Atoka Dixie. Then it was travel ball for 6 years.”

In that time with the After Shock, Baker batted .374 and shined from behind the plate with her defense.

“I always saw the potential in her,” Sigler said. “I started coaching her and of course she started developing. I saw she had the body size to play in the NCAA. You had to be a strong kid to be there.”

Baker’s signing ceremony on Dec. 5 in the Munford High School Library made it official that she’ll be an NCAA athlete. She knew it would take sharpening her skills on the diamond and keeping her grades up.

With a 22 on the ACT and a grade-point average of 3.5, Baker easily qualified for any level of college sports.

“It’s definitely hard work, the struggle of trying to keep up your grades with softball. As bad as it sounds, I’ve always put softball first because grades have come to easily to me. But senior year, I fight for my grades now.”

Jessyca always had fight on the Lady Cougar diamond in practice pushing Levin.

“To be a team player you have to have respect,” Baker said. “Amanda earned her spot on the team. And she was a senior and worked her way to having the position full time as a senior. She’s just good all around, good hitter and good defensive player.

“But when I was put in, I knew I had to compete to be able to start my senior year,” she added. “Going to State and watching all the other girls play, I think it was a learning experience. It helped me to know what my role will be when my senior year starts.”

Baker came up with clutch hits, score crucial runs and kept the coaching staff informed during big games the last two years. The Lady Cougars have been in Murfreesboro for the State Tournament during those times.

Now with a lineup expected to return seven seniors in 2013, Baker said she is ready to continue her off the field leadership and contribute even more between the lines.

“They should expect a good teammate like they’ve gotten for several years,” Sigler noted. “They should expect an aggressive catcher if they turn her loose. She’s not afraid to fail. She’s going to give 100 percent.”

Baker said she wanted to give her all to validate her father’s time and dedication for coaching her. She wanted to make her mother proud for all her sacrifices.

“The money and time put into softball is now paying for my education and is allowing me to go four more years to do what I love at a bigger higher level,” she said.

Dayna said seeing her daughter become a Lady Statesman made every second worth it.

“We’ve put in a lot of hard work,” she recalled. “She plays ball every weekend. We travel to a different city. This is what we were aiming for her to do. And it’s all paying off.”

Goulder said Delta State is getting a special player who knows the game, has natural talent and has a team-first approach.

“Jessyca has a good strong arm,” he said. “She hits with power and she hits the line drives also. We feel very confident with her behind the plate. She’s gonna really hold people on base this year. They’re getting a really good player.

“She’s a team ballplayer,” Goulder added. “And I love team players. People who put the team ahead of themselves are going to go far in life, not just in softball. She’s that kind of person and that will pay off in the long run.”

Baker said as for the immediate future, she will give her hometown crowd a chance to see that others have witnessed on softball fields across the Southeast for the last six years.

“This year I want to show off what I do in travel ball,” she concluded. “I’m very strong and aggressive when I’m behind the plate. I want to show what it is like to be aggressive. I want to take advantage and outsmart the runners. And if hitting full time, I want to show all the hard work I’ve done in travel ball.”

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December 2012
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