Gunner Baker Puts Finishing Touches on Stellar Prep Career With State Championship
ROUND ROCK -- Carlisle senior Gunner Baker walked off the field at Dell Diamond on Thursday a state champion.
Just a few months earlier, it was unclear whether Baker would ever walk again after a freak injury suffered during football season threatened the amputation of his leg.
His father, athletic director/head football coach and assistant baseball coach Rocky Baker, remembers it well.
"We went from him running down the sideline scoring a touchdown to a week where he was in the hospital," Rocky Baker said. "And a week later, I'm having to bathe my 18-year old son. And that's tough, that's real tough. To watch him go from doing anything he wants to do to go where I have to carry him and bathe him, it's hard. But it's worth it now."
Gunner, a star quarterback on the football team, entered this week's Class A state baseball tournament with a career pitching record of 53-4 -- a ridiculous 14-0 with an 0.08 ERA this season alone. He also carried a .453 average at the plate with a team-best 58 RBIs.
But he struggled in the final two games of his career. He allowed five runs in five innings in Wednesday's extra-inning semifinal win, a game decided by sophomore Justin McMurtry's suicide-squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth.
"RIght before he went up to bat, he told me, 'I got this, this is for you,'" Gunner said of McMurtry. "He got the bunt down, we scored the run. It's amazing the connection that we all have, from freshmen to seniors, managers to coaches. We've been a family the whole season."
His teammates wanted Gunner to go out a champion.
"Every one of our kids told him after the game, 'we don't have the bus sitting right here without the bus driver and you know who the bus driver is,'" Rocky Baker said. "That was incredible and it just shows what kind of kids we got. A different hero each night; they relied on him all year and when it came time, everybody else stepped up."
Gunner wasn't the only Baker the Carlisle players and coaches wanted to send out in style. Thursday was also the final game for Rocky as an assistant baseball coach.
"It's just amazing, an unbelievable feeling," Gunner said. "Everybody on the team busted their butts today in my dad's last game, which made it more emotional. My dad's coached me since I was 6-years old. I'm glad we got him a state championship in his last year."
As for Gunner, who has signed to play baseball for Hill College, his final moment as a high-school athlete was worth everything that happened in between.
"It's a storybook ending," said Rocky Baker, who will remain the AD and head football coach at Carlisle. "Everything that happened to us was a blessing and it was for the right reason, we know that now. For God to look over him and give him that miracle that let him save his leg … you couldn't write it any better. If you don't believe in miracles and you've got five minutes, I'll lay one on you."