Joe Baier found a way to stand out this season on a Bay Port baseball team that had some of the best talent in the area.
He played the all-important shortstop position after being an outfielder the previous two seasons. He pitched. He hit.
Most importantly, he helped the Pirates win. They captured the Fox River Classic Conference title and earned a trip to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament for the fourth straight season.
Baier, the American Family Insurance All-USA Press-Gazette baseball player of the year, was a second-team all-state pick by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association and the co-player of the year in the FRCC with teammate Connor Hock, and for good reason.
Baier hit .455 in league play, which was more than 120 points higher than his average during a strong junior campaign. He tied for the league lead with two home runs, ranked second with 30 hits and 25 RBIs and was third with seven doubles.
“I would say a lot of it came from having such a strong overall team this year that I feel a lot of the pressure was taken off the three and four spot compared to last year,” said Baier. “It kind of allowed me, and I know a couple of other guys, to just relax up at the plate and not put pressure on ourselves.”
Baier also settled in nicely as Bay Port’s No. 2 pitcher behind Hock. He went 5-0 in league play with a 1.54 earned-run average while striking out 36 in 27 2/3 innings. He was the winning pitcher in a sectional title game over Green Bay Preble after Hock beat Ashwaubenon in a semifinal.
Baier was counted on even more after standout pitcher Dakota Klein dealt with a collapsed lung that limited his innings in 2015.
“For me, I didn’t think it was too much pressure,” Baier said. “I had always pitched growing up. I think the only year I didn’t pitch was actually my sophomore year.
“I was kind of used to getting the ball once a week or whatever it happened to be. I thought I was decent enough to allow our team to get the runs we needed. So being able to take a little bit more responsibility I really think didn’t affect me too much.”
Baier dealt with his own injury concerns before the year, as his final prep football season ended prematurely after two concussions.
He decided to shut it down and get prepared for baseball. It’s his top sport after signing a letter of intent to play at NCAA Division I Chicago State before the season.
Baier was a starter for Bay Port teams that made it to state the past three years — it made it each of his four years in high school — and now he prepares for an even bigger chapter of his baseball career.
“I’m excited to go on and play baseball,” Baier said. “Stepping up to that next level of baseball competition. I think it will help me grow as a player and a person and I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci