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Lizi Arbogast / Tallapoosa Publishers Tallassee's Bobby Baker (11) scores a run against Reeltown.

Whether it’s seeing nine pitches in a single plate appearance or connecting with a first pitch fastball, the goal for every Tallassee hitter is to record a quality at-bat. The Tigers know it may not be possible to get one every time but Bobby Baker is setting a new standard for himself and his teammates.

In his first 44 plate appearances, Baker has led the Tigers with 29 quality at-bats.

“We look a lot at the quality at-bat ratio in stats with all of our guys,” Tallassee coach Adam Clayton said. “If they walk or find a way to get on or just sacrifice a guy over, that makes a difference. We don’t look a lot at averages but we look at those quality at-bat stats.”

Baker does not stop there though as his quality at-bats have turned into a scorching start to the year. He leads Tallassee with a .387 batting average and a .537 on-base percentage.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball better,” Baker said. “A lot of it is just evaluating the pitcher when you’re on deck. We try not to swing at too many first pitches but if it’s across the plate, we try to bust it.”

While jumping on first pitches has been a focus for the Tigers, Baker said they have to balance that with forcing a higher pitch county for opponents’ aces.

“We are always just trying to win,” Baker said. “So, the number one thing we want to do is try to get them to throw a lot of pitches. You want to make those guys work a little bit. We want to work the count more.”

Baker is second on the team in that category, seeing an average of 3.82 pitches per plate appearance. He leads the team with 11 plate appearances with at least six pitches and he is the only Tiger to reach double digits in at-bats with three or more pitches after two strikes.

“That tells you he has a lot of experience and knows the strike zones most of the time,” Clayton said. “He has a great swing too so that usually equates to a lot of hits.”

Clayton said he expected to see Baker have a breakout season after a strong finish last year. After a slow start in the opening week, Baker quickly put together a seven-game hitting streak when he recorded 10 hits in 19 at-bats and reached base 17 times in 32 plate appearances.

Baker’s hitting streak ended against Saint James but he extended his streak to 11 games with at least one quality at-bat . He finished the day 0-for-3 but he recorded four quality at bats and saw an average of five pitches per plate appearance.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it but seeing the ball get down helps with your confidence,” Baker said. “Baseball is 99% mental anyway. We had some hard hits that they just made plays on.”

Tallassee will continue to rely on quality at-bats from Baker and the rest of the team as that stat has been a direct measure of its success. The Tigers are 6-0 when recording more quality at-bats than their opponents.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.