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03.07.12 | M Baseball

Baseball Big 3

3.7.12 | Baseball

Big three set to anchor Baker pitching staff in 2012

Baseball Big 3

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – After losing the season-opening series to No. 19 Rogers State in Oklahoma, Baker was primed for its home opener against Dakota State on Feb. 25-26.

Baker took the first two games of the series on Saturday, winning 3-2 in the opener and 7-2 in the nightcap. On Sunday, Dakota State shut out Baker 6-0 in the third game of the series before senior Nathan Wheelock (Russell, Kan.) delivered one of the most special pitching performances in Baker history.

Wheelock closed the series with a 3-0 perfect game, striking out seven batters, as Baker earned its first series victory of the season. It was Baker’s first perfect game since Chris Cummins threw one against Central Methodist University in 2009.

“We have inning by inning goals for these guys,” said Baker head coach Phil Hannon. “These guys take a lot of personal responsibility out there. They know I can’t always be around them as head coach and pitching coach.”

Sophomore Jimmy Gricol (Corona, Calif.) and senior Chris Cummins (Corona, Calif.) think the perfect game by Wheelock was the start to something special this season.

“We try to put our team in a position to win everyday,” said Cummins said. “Ultimately that breaks down into a pitch-by-pitch scenario for us. We feed off each other, we work with each other and trust one another.”

Cummins, Baker’s No. 1 pitcher in 2012, looks to set the tone heading into every series.

“It kind of starts with game one, with all of us seeing how consistent Chris usually is,” added Gricol, Baker’s No. 3 pitcher. “That really gets us going as a staff.”

The Baker pitching staff also knows pitching a complete game every outing might not be an option. Setting up the bullpen for success is critical.

“Most of our guys in the bullpen treat it as if they’re already in the game,” Wheelock said. “They might not be in the game physically, but they know what they need to do mentally if they were out there in that situation.”

With a more balanced Heart of America Athletic Conference schedule in 2012, the Baker baseball team has its eyes set on qualifying for the HAAC postseason tournament.

“When they reformatted the divisions this year, all the schools on the west side (Baker, MNU, Avila, Benedictine) will now play one four-game set at each school rather than a home-and-home,” Hannon said. “I know all of these guys have the ability to pitch well on the road.”

Baker, 6-7, currently ranks 30th in the NAIA with a team ERA of 3.29.

“Our goal is to prepare ourselves for our league games coming up in the next few weeks,” Hannon added. “With our mix of talented returners and newcomers, I truly believe this is our year to break through.”

The Wildcats return to action this weekend for a home-and-home series against The University of St. Mary (Kan.) on Mar. 10-11.

View the full updated season stats here.

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