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Catonsville pitcher Carl Baker had a 6-1 record and 1.58 earned run average for the Comets. Baker, who also wrestled, is the 2018 Catonsville Times Male Athlete of the Year.
Catonsville pitcher Carl Baker had a 6-1 record and 1.58 earned run average for the Comets. Baker, who also wrestled, is the 2018 Catonsville Times Male Athlete of the Year. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Whether he was changing speeds, spotting his fastball or laying down a suicide squeeze bunt on the baseball diamond or positioning himself so he could cling to a one-point lead on the wrestling mat, Catonsville High’s 2018 graduate Carl Baker figured out how to do it extremely well.

The two-sport athlete was so successful in his senior year he earned the Catonsville Times Male Athlete of the Year award.

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As a southpaw pitcher for the 12-7 Comets, he went 6-1 and posted a 1.58 earned run average.

His only blemish was a 4-1 defeat in the Class 4A North Region semifinals.

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He allowed six hits in 5 2/3 innings in that loss to eventual state-champion Howard.

Overall, Baker pitched 35 1/3 innings, while allowing 26 hits and 10 walks, with a WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 1.019.

He allowed only eight earned runs all season and started in left field when he wasn’t pitching.

“He was a clutch outfielder and I really think he was the best outfielder we had,” said Catonsville head baseball coach Rich Hambor, noting Baker and Comet outfielders Dallas Evans (CF) and Nick Eiswert (RF) all made the All-County first team.

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Baker was also selected to the District VI All-Region team as a pitcher and played in the Baltimore County Senior All-Star game.

He ended that classic with a game-winning double off the wall at Loch Raven High.

“That was pretty good,” Baker said. “It was off the top of the fence in right center.”

In one of his final at bats with the Comets, the ball traveled much less in distance, but it was equally important.

It was a suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the fifth inning against Howard in the regional playoff game that scored Will Jones and cut the lead to 2-1.

Baker, who had retired 14 of 15 batters, after allowing two runs in the first inning, was stranded and the Comets never got any closer.

Catonsville assistant baseball coach and head wrestling coach Eric Warm liked to refer to him as sneaky.

“I almost always called him ‘Sneaky’ every day in baseball,” Warm said. “He never speaks, not in practice, not during the games, just a quiet guy and he just goes out and he surprises everybody, his teammates, his coaches, the other team and the other team’s coaches.”

Warm, who will take over the head baseball coaching position from Hambor, who took over as Catonsville High athletic director, saw the 5-foot-9 athlete use finesse, toughness and smarts to succeed in baseball and wrestling.

In wrestling, he went 19-10 while grappling at 126 pounds. In baseball, he pitched at around 135 pounds.

“For baseball he had late movement on his ball and guys would go up there and they would see he didn’t have dominating speed and they would go up there mashing and with his late movement he just got everyone to pop out or ground out,” Warm said. “Nobody had solid contact on him all year, including in the playoffs. His success in baseball was people thought that they could get him, but they were wrong, same with wrestling.”

Hambor saw a throwback on the baseball diamond.

“He reminds me in his uniform of one of those guys in the 1930’s, kind of like the baggie pants and jersey hanging off of him a little bit, and then he just comes out there and just deals and throws,” Hambor said. “He’s not throwing the ball 90 miles an hour, but he’s spotting the ball and being a lefty is always an advantage and he is a really smart pitcher.”

Baker didn’t pitch a lot as a junior (7 innings), but he did make an impression when he tossed three shutout innings, retiring eight in a row and 9 of 10 batters in relief, in an 11-1 win over Franklin.

“He didn’t get a whole lot of innings his junior year, but we saw some sparks,” Hambor said.

Those sparks became full-blown fireworks his senior year.

“He’s not a guy you can go through the lineup once and you got him, because he’s smart enough to give other looks to guys two or three times,” Hambor said.

Howard coach Nick Hofner, saw that in the playoff game.

“He did a really nice job. He kept us off-balanced, we popped up a lot of balls, but we were able to get some key hits when we needed them,” Hofner said.

Offensively, Baker, who plans to play at CCBC Dundalk next year, batted .268 with a .412 on base percentage and eight runs scored.

“He’s one of those typical guys that probably would have liked the dead ball era, slapping the ball around and going the other way, a great bunter, a great base runner,” Hambor said.

Baker is one that takes pride in his bunting.

After popping up a suicide squeeze bunt attempt into a double play in a 9-3 win over Lansdowne, he went out on the mound and struck out the side the next inning.

When the time came again in the playoffs against Howard, that missed squeeze was certainly in the back of his mind.

“Our coaches know me as a very sneaky player, but it’s not very sneaky, it’s just one of those things that I know how to do and when the time is right I can get it down,” Baker said. “The Lansdowne game, I just had a terrible angle and he happened to get it outside on me and I popped it up, but it’s just something that I had to do, so they use it as a tool.”

His mound approach is equally cerebral.

“I kind of see myself as a person that knows where to throw the ball, how to throw the ball, so that they don’t get too much good wood on it and so that way it’s easier on my infield and my outfield to play the ball right and easier for me to know where they are going to hit it,” Baker said. “I don’t throw very fast, but it’s a good thing to know where you are going to throw the ball, that way you have an idea where it’s going to go.”

Baker started playing baseball in the Violetville program at age 3, but didn’t start wrestling until he was a sophomore on the JV at Catonsville High.

He did it because he wanted to try a second sport and later found out his grandfather had wrestled.

He didn’t make the regular lineup as a junior.

“I sat on the bench and helped set up and watched everybody wrestle,” he said.

In his senior year he never came out of the lineup and was named the team’s unsung hero.

“He was very tough out on the mat,” Warm said. “He wasn’t the most technical guy, but late in a match when the score is 1-1 or 2-2, because of his toughness, and mentally, he never gave up and he had a lot of fight in him and he would score late or wrestle really tough at the end to hold on.”

He could have wrestled as an alternate in the regional tournament, but Warm wanted him to prepare for baseball season, which ultimately proved to be the right call, even though Baker was unsure at first.

“I kind of did, but I kind of didn’t because I feel that baseball is more of my sport, since I’ve been doing it since I was three and wrestling I started when I was 16,” he said.

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He left the sport of wrestling with no regrets and he even finished fifth in a tournament in Easton and seventh in one at Severna Park during his senior year.

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“Sophomore year, I did okay and I kind of worked up to it [junior year] but I didn’t earn a spot, but I was good enough to work with varsity players and senior year I finally got a spot and I just went on from there,” Baker said. “I thought I did pretty well, but I didn’t think that I was one of those people that was very good at wrestling, but apparently I was.”

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