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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Pitcher finishes career on strong arm

Senior business major, Nick Baker, throws against Cal State East Bay. Photo credit: Alex Boesch

As a Wildcat, Nick Baker has done it all. He’s thrown gems on the mound, competed in the NCAA College World Series and earned a sweet nickname along the way.

To think he almost donned the Dodger blue.

The senior pitcher passed up a professional offer and came to Chico State instead. Now in his final season, Baker is pitching stronger than ever and ascending into the school record books.

Baker graduated from Palm Desert High School and played on the 2010 Aztecs team that won the state championship. The right-hander was the Desert Valley League MVP and the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in the 44th round that spring.

His goal was to keep playing baseball for as long as he could, Baker said. But he was just 17 when he was drafted, and had never experienced being away from home. He opted to go to Chico State, where he could get an education and play ball at the same time.

“It was the right move and the better decision,” Baker said. “To this day it’s the best decision I’ve made.”

Baker has a 30-8 career record, third in Chico State history. He’s also third with 54 strikeouts in 84.1 innings pitched. This year he’s 8-1 with a 1.71 ERA. He’s also walked just eight batters.

Baker’s pitching repertoire has been one of the reasons for his success. The “Professor”, as sports information director Luke Reid dubbed him, throws a fastball, curveball and a slider, but also has a quick tempo on the hill.

The tempo fits his personality, and helps keeps the defense behind him on alert, Baker said.

The success isn’t all him, Baker said. The team excels at picking pitchers up and making key defensive plays around him.

His longtime teammate and roommate Ryan O’Shea, however, isn’t so modest.

“He works hard on and off the field,” O’Shea said. “He’s the type of guy that leads by example and shows you how to play. He shows you how to learn from your mistakes.”

Even though the statistics cement his place in Wildcat history, that’s not what Baker will remember about his time at Chico State.

He’ll remember coming in as a freshman and learning under the older members of the staff, Baker said. He’ll remember taking a chartered flight to the World Series and the countless games with his teammates. He’ll remember getting lost in IKEA with O’Shea and almost missing a bus out of town.

After his collegiate career, Baker wants to continue playing baseball as long as he can.

“You’re on the mound one day a week and that’s your job, regardless of what’s going on at school or at home,” Baker said. “No matter what you’re thinking, you’ve got to go out there and get the job done.”

His college days aren’t over yet, and he has some jobs left to finish. Chico State has one final regular season series left against Sonoma State then will play in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. The team’s goal is to make a run at the national championship, and they’re going to need their ace to do so.

“He’s our guy,” O’Shea said. “I don’t know any better way to put it. He’s our guy.”

Nick Woodard can be reached at nw[email protected] or @nwoodard25 on Twitter.

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