The fun run

As a TV reporter started interviewing coach Jeremy Eck Monday, Loyalsock first baseman Tommy Baggett snuck from behind and photo-bombed the scene, while making a funny face.

Baggett is all work on the field, but he knows how to have fun too. He is having a lot of fun these days, playing some of his best baseball while helping Loyalsock reach a second straight Class AA state final. The Lancers (22-5) play Martinsburg Central Friday at Penn State and Baggett will be enjoying the moment he has helped produce.

“Tommy is always smiling. He’s our go-getter,” Eck said. “He gets everyone up, he keeps everyone focused and he comes up when it matters most. God bless him, he’s a great kid.”

And in the postseason especially, Baggett is a great player. The junior first baseman again is elevating his performance at the perfect time. Baggett went 2 for 3 in Monday’s 4-3 semifinal win over Neumann-Goretti and his fifth-inning, two-out single helped break a 2-2 tie. He is hitting .318 this postseason but has especially been strong in states the last two years.

Last year, Baggett went 1 for 2 with two RBIs in a 5-4 state championship win over Beaver. Beaver intentionally walked him in the seventh inning and Bailey Young hit the walk-off single two batters later. This postseason, Baggett has hit safely in six of seven games and has driven in five runs while scoring four more.

The regular season did not go the way Baggett planned. He started slow after suffering a severely sprained ankle during the basketball playoffs. None of that matters now. He is producing again and shining when it matters most.

“I’m really thankful to be here and be with all my friends. My teammates have been picking me up all year because I have been going through a little bit of a slump,” Baggett said. “(Assistant) coach (Denny) Loner doesn’t get off my back during batting practice at all, so I have great coaches and teammates and they definitely have helped me out.”

Baggett never has shied from hard work. He embraces it and teammates knew he was doing all he could to break out. Baggett is talented but so are a lot of players. The intangibles have really helped him become a vital member of two straight state finalists. Rare is finding a player who will outwork Baggett, an athlete who went from preseason reserve to team RBI leader a year ago.

A similar work ethic helped Baggett earn a starting spot on last winter’s basketball team. His versatility helps too. Baggett has played first and third base the last two years and has the ability to play just about any position on the field. He even threw a complete-game 1-hitter with nine strikeouts in his first and only varsity pitching performance against Warrior Run.

Over the last two seasons, Baggett has driven in 52 runs while topping .300 both times. He also has become a dependable defensive player and has made some nice scoops at first base throughout the postseason.

“He’s a guy we can count on and rely on,” Eck said. “We don’t need him to do spectacular things and hit the ball over the fence. We just need him to pick up runs when guys are in scoring position. He’s done a great job for us.”

Baggett has earned an impressive state-wide reputation too. He recently was selected to play in this summer’s in Pennsylvania’s Big 26 Classic, a mirror image of football’s Big 33 Game. The Big 26 is a three-day tournament played in July, featuring some of Pennsylvania’s best players against Maryland’s best. Baggett earned his spot after playing well at three tryout sessions.

The coaches who picked the team learned in those three days what Loyalsock players, coaches and fans have known for a long time. He is strong off the field, a team leader and a good person. But the bottom line is Baggett can play.

“Tommy is that kid you want your daughter to bring home. He’s a genuine classy kid who goes about his business the right way,” Eck said. “He works hard and thank God he keeps on getting it done for us and I think he will have opportunity to play college baseball where he wants to play. He’s a huge part of our team.”