Amy Baker's ball collection is growing.
It already includes the Creighton senior's first home run when she was 8 and the only kid to hit one over the fence at regionals.
There's the plaque her dad built for the 10 balls she hammered at Omaha Westside to set the then-Nebraska high school record for home runs in a season.
And you can't overlook the cans of balls marking milestones in a softball career that started when she got kicked out of the Grover Little League at 7. Baker loved baseball, just like her three big brothers, until they told her girls couldn't play.
There's so many balls she started using them for batting practice when she went home.
“My mom is really big on collecting the balls,” Baker said. “They are sports fanatics. They have been my No. 1 fans, no doubt about it.”
Baker's dad, Tom, won't be prowling beyond the fence Tuesday for Creighton's doubleheader at No. 7 Missouri beginning at 3 p.m.
Somehow, though, he'll get ahold of the ball if the All-Missouri Valley Conference catcher and first baseman breaks the league record for career home runs with her 53rd.
It will join the two from earlier this month when Baker set the school records for RBIs (151) and homers (52).
Baker said it's crazy to think she's on the verge of setting the Valley home run record and seven away from breaking the league's RBI mark.
“Historically, she is going down as one of the best hitters in our program but even in the league,” coach Brent Vigness said. “Her numbers are through the roof. She's having her best year ever.”
Baker, who has 11 homers this season, said her success boils down to the confidence after taking thousands of swings.
And the fact, she said, that if you hit a home run you don't have to worry about getting tagged out.
Baker admitted she's not the fastest kid on the field, so she's based her hitting on power and being smart at the plate.
“I help myself if I don't have to sprint all the way around. I'm not going to beat out a grounder,” she said. “If I don't hit a ground ball or keep it in the infield, they can't throw me out.”
Baker doesn't aim for a home run every time, though, because she said the more she thinks about it the less likely it is to happen.
She rarely swings at a first pitch, either, unless someone is unlucky enough to throw a ball down the middle. Baker waits instead to get the timing down.
In 74 at-bats, she has just nine strikeouts. She also leads the team in walks (11), which is somewhat surprising, Vigness said, because power hitters aren't always that patient.
“She has a great eye,” he said. “More often than not, she puts it into play and more often than not, it's an extra-base hit.”
Baker has reached base in 23 straight games and leads the team with 10 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games. She also leads the 16-9 Bluejays with a .419 batting average, a .959 slugging percentage, an on-base percentage of .494, 31 hits, 26 RBIs and seven doubles.
Her slugging percentage and homers are eighth nationally.
It's a big relief every time she makes contact.
“Then I know there is no way they can take that at-bat away from me and make it a negative one,” she said. “Even when they do go out, it's the same as hitting a single. It's a positive at-bat, one step closer to our team scoring a run or winning the game.”
After earning the record, which she said at times has weighed heavily on her shoulders, she'll be glad to focus more on the team's success. She wants to finish with a Valley championship.
Still, it feels good to be compared to the best in program history.
“I've always wanted to play softball,” she said. “Being successful has made my love for the sport just that much more.”
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