Mercer County Baseball Honors Griffin Baker
This past weekend, Mercer County baseball hosted its first annual Griffin Baker Memorial Tournament. The tournament welcomed three highly ranked high school teams, Taylor County, Collins and Ballard High Schools, and followed a “round-robin” style of play with each team playing two of the three. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, there was great baseball to watch at Mercer County’s brand-new sports complex. However, the first inaugural tournament was hardly about baseball, it was about celebrating and honoring the life of Griffin Baker.
In August 2022, Baker tragically lost his life at the age of 13 after suffering injuries from an ATV accident. Griffin lived a happy life and had several deep connections to his community, including being a player for and avid supporter of Mercer County Titans baseball. In response to this tragedy, Head Baseball Coach Cody Christopher worked with Baker’s parents to create a scholarship program in his name to be funded by the proceeds of an annual baseball tournament. The scholarship will be given yearly to a Mercer County baseball senior to help with the expenses of college or a technical education. According to the team, “Mercer County Baseball has established this annual tournament to continue the legacy of Griffin Baker and his love for helping others.” In the very first year of hosting the event, the Titans were able to raise over $2,000 to go towards this scholarship.
The first game of the day was played between the Taylor County Cardinals and the Mercer County Titans. If the emotions were not already high enough, the first pitch ceremony was enough to bring tears to the eyes of all in attendance. As players aligned themselves on the foul lines, the story of young Baker was shared for everyone to hear. Immediately following this, Griffin’s father Jared Baker took the mound to throw out the first pitch. Making this moment even more special was the fact that his first pitch would be caught by Mercer County Titans senior, Jonathan Logdon, his stepson. After taking a moment to pause and experience the emotions of the moment, Jared Baker reared back and threw a perfect strike across the plate. The pitch was met by thunderous applause, as every fan of Mercer County, and friends and family of Baker, and all others in attendance celebrated together for the start of a great day of baseball.
After the ceremonies, the first game of the day began. Mercer County took the field behind starting pitcher, freshman Jared Layton. The Titans made short work of the visiting Cardinals in the top half of the first inning and used that momentum to carry over into a lead-off double from freshman short-stop Carter Devine. Devine’s efforts were for naught though, as the Titans failed to bring him in, leaving the score at 0-0 after a fully completed inning.
The second inning looked to be a similar story when Layton retired the next three batters in order on just 11 total pitches. The Titans’ trips to the plate were more fruitful this try, however, as Mercer County put their first three batters on base without recording an out. Hitting with zero outs and the bases loaded, sophomore left-fielder Andrew Tatum did his job and scored teammate, freshman Ayden Stephens with a ground ball to the short-stop. On the very next pitch, Tatum swiped second and put runners on second and third base for Logdon. On the fourth pitch of his at-bat, Logdon crushed a ball to left field for a two-RBI stand-up double and scored Andrew Sheperson and Tatum. After this, Taylor County was able to clean up the mess and made the final two outs of the inning without allowing any more damage from the Titan offense.
The game remained with a score of 3-0 until the top of the 4th inning when the Cardinal bats started to come alive. After stringing together a series of hits (two singles and a double), along with two great sacrifice bunts, the Cardinals pushed across two runs, cutting the Titan lead down, 3-2. After they held Mercer to another scoreless inning in their next turn to hit, Taylor added to their score column with three more runs. By the end of the fifth inning, Taylor had jumped out to a 5-3 lead.
The Titans weren’t able to spark any traction in the sixth inning, the Titans came up to hit in the bottom of the seventh with a chance to come back and tie, or walk it off. Devine led off the come-back effort for Mercer with a shallow “seeing eye” hit over the short-stops head. Following the lead-off hit, freshman Jackson Doughty was hit by a pitch in the face and junior Will Johnson was walked to load the bases. However, after a strikeout, a pop-up, and a fielder’s choice to consecutive batters, the visiting Cardinals were able to stomp out the Titans’ bid at a comeback win. Taylor County won with a final score of 5-3.
The Titans are back in action on Friday, April 28, when they take on Elizabethtown at home at 6 p.m. After finishing regular-season district play earlier in the week, the Titans are looking to polish up and become their best before the regular season ends and the post-season begins in just a few short weeks.