Katelyn Baker energizes Hampshire softball on the bases and in the dugout

  • Hampshire Regional senior Katelyn Baker provides a calming presence in the outfield with her athleticism and range. It’s the opposite of the energy she brings from the leadoff spot and in the dugout. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Hampshire Regional’s Maggie Rubeck (16) hugs teammate Katelyn Baker after Baker made the game-winning, leaping catch over the fence to rob a home run and secure the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship over Greenfield last season. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire Regional’s Katelyn Baker spends most softball games covered in dirt. She’s always stealing bases and sliding  STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2022 7:37:58 PM

WESTHAMPTON – Katelyn Baker stepped on to the Hampshire Regional softball team as a quiet seventh grader. She didn’t know quite who she was surrounded by older, more experienced players.

Then she got comfortable. It’s the last time anyone called her quiet.

“I was getting into who I wanted to be,” Baker said. “I want to be like this loud, crazy person who gets everyone up and sometimes people are like ‘Baker chill,’ but I think it really works out in the field.”

Baker is Hampshire’s leadoff hitter and No. 1 hype engine. Her constant presence on the base paths generates runs. Her dancing, clapping and yelling in the dugout keep the energy going.

“We all feed off of it,” Hampshire senior Bri Sulikowski said. “We get loud and we try to match her energy.”

The Raiders needed Baker’s spark in the Division 4 state tournament Round of 16 against Malden Catholic on Tuesday. They were lethargic in warm ups after playing the day before.

Not on Baker’s watch. She reminded them, in her signature growl hoarse from encouragement, that this was the state tournament. If they lost, the season was over.

“The way she pulled us out of that attitude was good,” Hampshire senior Hannah Wodecki said. “She's always had that like, happy attitude. We’ve always embraced it. We’ll take as much happiness and energy that we can.”

They’re preparing for the biggest game of the season: Friday’s Division 4 state quarterfinal against No. 8 Littleton. The Raiders have won 17 games in a row in part because of the energy Baker cultivates.

She’ll yell “Hey!” at her teammates walking down the hall. Hampshire junior pitcher Jocelyn Mettey knows the shout well. She’ll hear it from center field echoing “Mine!” or “I got it!” Not much gets past her out there. Baker brought back a home run against Greenfield in last season’s Western Massachusetts championship game that would have tied the game in the top of the seventh, but Baker landed with the ball in her glove and ended the game.

 “I trust her for sure. I know she's there because you'll hear her scream,” Mettey said. “You just know she’s there.”

Hampshire coach Brian McGan has never tired to tamp down Baker’s zest. He recognizes the value of volume and aggression.

“We embrace it more than we try to hone it. Baker is Baker,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t know what she’s gonna do.”

McGan largely gives her freedom on the base paths to steal or take an extra bag on a hit where he would send a stop sign to other runners.

“You gotta turn her loose and see what happens,” McGan said.

It’s worked out so far.

“I love getting the team built up and ready to go,” Baker said. “Screaming my heart out all the time.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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