By Steve Williams
Many young girls dream of playing college softball in the Southeastern Conference.
What does it take to get that opportunity?
For starters, future prospects and parents may want to take a look at Cayden Baker’s statistics at Powell High for the 2021 season.
Her numbers pretty much give one an idea of what it takes to be offered a scholarship in the SEC.
Offensively, the Lady Panthers’ shortstop who signed with Texas A&M, hit an even .500 in District 3-AAA, one of the state’s best districts.
In 136 official at-bats, Baker had 68 hits, which included 12 doubles, five triples and nine home runs.
Cayden got on base 17 times via walks and had an on-base percentage of .570. She stole 41 bases, scored 72 runs and batted in 32 runs for Powell, which won the district’s regular season and tournament titles. She struck out only 12 times in 158 plate appearances.
Baker, whose fielding percentage was .923, is the PHS female Student-Athlete of the Year.
“Cayden is one of the most talented players I’ve coached,” said Powell’s Jeff Inman. “There isn’t anything on the field that she can’t do and does everything at a high level. She is a very tough competitor who hates to lose and the bigger the game the better she plays.”
Inman also said it’s “very rare” to have a player that signs with a Power 5 Conference school.
Baker is the second SEC signee Inman has had at Powell. Former Lady Panther Kennedy Cowden played at Kentucky before transferring to Georgia Tech after her freshman season.
“The only other local players I can think of to play in the SEC or at a Power 5 Conference school are Kaylan Cole and Madison Webber at UT,” said Inman. “They played at The King’s Academy a couple years ago.”
Baker was a freshman on Inman’s state championship team at Powell in 2018.
“She started at shortstop and hit leadoff every game as a freshman through her senior season,” said Inman. “She went to The King’s Academy her 8th grade year and played varsity for them and won a state championship with them.”
Baker’s career stats at Powell – all in three years because of the lost season to COVID in 2020 – were a .478 batting average with 26 doubles, 19 triples, 16 homers, 202 runs, 99 RBI and 139 stolen bases. During Cayden’s career, Powell’s record was 116-24.
Baker had offers from Louisiana Lafayette, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Penn State and Duke in addition to Texas A&M.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in the SEC,” said Cayden. “I was told I wasn’t good enough, so that made me want it even more. The facilities are amazing and I wanted to go somewhere that softball was prioritized and of course had a good football team!”
Baker will report to A&M, which is located in College Station, in mid-August.
“The plan is to play shortstop and hit in the batting order somewhere, but I have to work for it,” she said. “Knowing I have a heck of a lot of athletes ahead of me, I know I have to work for it and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will be starting.”
As for her major, Baker, who was a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.8 GPA, said: “As of right now I am going into Business. I had intentions of being a social worker, but I’m leaning towards Communications and going with something sports related.”
Finally, Cayden was asked: What advice would you give any young girl who dreams to play in the SEC someday?
“The advice I have is to play at the highest level of competition and love the coaches who will fight for you and push you to be your best,” she said. “Without Brooks Cherry, my travel ball coach, and (Powell coaches) Jeff, Wes (Trotterchaud) and Andy (Franse), I wouldn’t be nearly the player I am today.
“Enjoy getting yelled at when you mess up because that means they care and it’s only for your benefit,” added Baker. “Don’t take anything for granted, it goes by fast. Always thank your parents and family, they miss out on a lot to see you live your dream.”
Sutton, male honoree, was Mr. Powell High
Logen Sutton, Powell’s male Student-Athlete of the Year, was named Mr. PHS this year.
Sutton excelled in academics (4.0 GPA) and athletics as well as being respected by his classmates.
The ETSU signee also was chosen Mr. Baseball in Class AAA by the TBCA. He was a third baseman and pitcher for the District 3 champions.
A season highlight for Sutton was hitting a home run in six consecutive games. He finished the year with 10 homers.
Sutton was a standout in basketball too, making the All-District 3 team and The Knoxville Focus / Coaches’ 2020-21 All-Knox County second team.
Logen also was a member of the PHS Peer Tutoring program with special-needs students.