Purdue freshman softball player Mallory Baker’s first college hit was a home run.

Yet the major college game hasn’t all been so easy for the former Center Grove High School standout, who helped lead the Trojans to the 2015 Class 4A state championship.

“The better the pitchers get since (the Big Ten) conference started, the harder they are,” said Baker, who got her first hit against University of California-Santa Barbara in Tucson, Arizona, on Feb. 12.

“We faced a Canadian (National Team) pitcher (Sara Groenewegen) who threw for Minnesota, and she was amazing,” Baker said. “You’ve got to be mentally prepared just like the pitchers are.”

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To that point, Baker — the Daily Journal’s 2015 Softball Player of the Year — said her adjustment has been more mental than physical this season.

“I used to just get by and being better than everyone,” Baker said. “Now you have to think about it and understand mentally what is going on.”

Nonetheless, Baker has surpassed her expectations in terms of playing time.

A full-time starter, she has been a regular contributor since the beginning of the season.

“I was just hoping I would impact the team in any way that they wanted me to and take on whatever role the coach said,” Baker said. “I didn’t think I was going to start at all. Then I started. So it’s been exciting. It’s been hard. It’s been challenging.

“Everyone is the best player from their town, so it’s all the best players playing against each other.”

Baker is hitting .294 with one home run and nine RBIs for the Boilermakers, who are 20-14 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten.

Baker has started in all 32 games she has played in.

“Mallory has been a good addition to our team,” Purdue coach Kim Schuette said. “I like that she is a left-handed power hitter. That is always good. I like her aggressiveness at the plate. Any time a freshman can step in and help, you’re pleased.

“At the same time, we recruited Mallory because we knew she was good. We’re excited that she’s doing what we thought she could do, and we think she can do even more and get better every day.”

Baker, who also throws left-handed, has started 19 games at first base and 13 in right field.

Baker is listed as a catcher/utility player on the roster but hasn’t been behind the plate during a game. She occasionally practices at catcher.

“I didn’t catch that much in high school after my sophomore year,” Baker said. “It’s a break for my knees.”

Baker said her biggest improvement has been in being more versatile and becoming a better athlete.

“You never know where they are going to put you or what they are going to have you do when you get up to bat,” Baker said. “You have to be able to put the ball on the ground on any position on the field.

“You have to bunt it. You have to put it any position that they tell you.”

Schuette likes what she has seen of Baker’s determination to improve.

“I like Mallory’s spice that she has in her, and I like she’s a competitor,” Schuette said. “She wants a lot out of her career, and she’s not satisfied just playing as a freshman. She wants to do the most she can for her team. I want her to continue to improve as a first baseman and outfielder, as well, and definitely as a power threat up at bat.

“I like her competitiveness, and at this point of the year, I don’t see her as a freshman. That’s a nice feeling to have.”

The Baker File

Name: Mallory Baker

College: Purdue

Sport: Softball

Year: Freshman


Age: 19

High school: Center Grove (2015)

High school highlights: Hit .560 in leading Trojans to Class 4A state title in 2015 and was named Indiana’s co-Miss Softball

Favorite class: Supply chain class

Favorite food: Creamed-filled doughnuts

Favorite movie: “Minions”

Favorite way to relax: “I sleep all the time. I’m a nap-taker.”

Favorite vacation spot: Charleston, South Carolina

Favorite sports moment: Winning Class 4A state high school championship in 2015.

Major: Technology leadership and innovation

Family: Parents are David and Angie Baker

Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.