ocean — Croatan High School’s Brittany Baker will follow in her coach’s footsteps and join the Pitt Community College softball team.
Ericka Taylor left the lady Bulldogs four years ago and knew the program would suit her second baseman.
“I always had Pitt in mind because I played there, and I thought she would be a good fit,” Taylor said. “I knew that her abilities and will to play would help her there, and coach (Junior) Bailey would be able to mold her into a better player.”
Baker hit .460 in her senior year with 13 RBIs, 16 runs, two doubles and three triples. Croatan finished the season 11-8 overall and 8-6 in the East Central Conference and saw its season end in the first round of the 2A state playoffs with a 5-0 loss to Beddingfield.
A miscommunication nearly precluded the all-conference second baseman from ending up in Greenville.
“I went to the tryout, and coach said he would email me back if I made the team,” Baker said. “I had made plans to go somewhere else, and then I saw him at a travel ball tournament, and he asked if I got his emails, and I said I hadn’t.”
Bailey reached out to his former player and soon cleared up the confusion.
“I talked to Erica about her, and told her I didn’t hear anything back, so I assumed she wasn’t interested,” he said. “But we finally got it straight. We’ve been in good contact since then.”
Methodist and Fayetteville State reached out to Baker to join their programs. Determined to continue her softball career, Baker explored all avenues, including two colleges in Pennsylvania and one in Kansas. She even visited Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Penn.
“I decided that wasn’t for me,” she said. “I wanted to play somewhere, though, so I was willing to check it out.”
At one point, she resigned herself to the fact that her playing career would be confined to travel ball. Baker planned to attend Mid-Atlantic Christian University before the opportunity presented itself at Pitt.
She tried out with the lady Bulldogs in May and made an impression on the coach.
“We saw a lot of good things when she came to our tryouts,” Bailey said. “We take them through everything — speed, defense, swinging the bat, etc. Probably the biggest thing that stood out to us was her swing. She swings the bat well and hits well.”
There will be 22 players joining the lady Bulldog squad this year, leading to plenty of competition at each spot. Baker’s bat and her versatility in the field, with an ability to play infield or outfield, will provide her a chance to see playing time.
Bailey has enjoyed tremendous success in his seven years at Pitt, leading the program to a 217-115-1 mark in that time. The last four years have seen the team reach its greatest heights, going 148-49 overall and 65-22 in the Region X Conference.
The lady Bulldogs went 33-17 overall and 14-13 in the league this past year.
It’s more than success on the field, however, that Taylor believes will benefit Baker at Pitt.
“Those were the best couple of years of my life,” she said. “Coach really bonds with his players. It’s like a family there. We still keep in touch, and it’s been four years. So do most of my teammates. And now we’ve just added another person to our family.”