2008 All Area ?Softball: Without a Doubt

Her often-overlooked defense was impeccable, her offense was powerful, clutch and record-breaking and the Crescenta Valley High squad she led was one of the best softball teams the area's seen in years, perhaps ever.

So, it was without hesitation that the greatest slugger the area has ever seen was unanimously voted by the sports editors and writers of the La Cañada Valley Sun, Burbank Leader and Glendale News-Press as the 2008 All-Area Softball Player of the Year.

“If you put everything into perspective,” Falcons Coach Dan Berry says, “in terms of hitting, defense and leadership, it's all become a complete package.”

The complete package known as Baillie Kirker earned a laundry list of postseason accolades — including this, her second All-Area Player of the Year award in three seasons — after stringing together a season-long hit parade that resulted in unprecedented statistical dominance.

The 18 home runs boosted her career total to 37, which is, likewise, tops in the Southern Section record book. But her 66 runs batted in were just about as impressive, as they were a mark that was, according to cifss.org, the section's second-best season total ever and put her career numbers up to 143 — just 10 away from the career record.

Those numbers led to her being named the Division III co-Most Valuable Player. Kirker was also named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State First Team and voted the Pacific League Player of the Year.

“For us, it was just amazing to see Baillie perform,” says senior Caitlyn Cox, an All-Area outfielder.

With the 18 home runs and 66 RBIs came a .632 average, a 1.389 slugging percentage, 60 hits, 47 runs, 12 doubles, 12 walks and three triples.

“I just wanted to help the team, whatever came along with it was a plus,” Kirker maintains.

Kirker certainly did more than just help. Two of her most clutch efforts came against Pacific League-rival Burbank, the No. 2 team in the CIF Southern Section Division III rankings behind Crescenta Valley for much of the season.

In the teams' second go-round, it was a Kirker double against Kristin Peraza, arguably the area's top pitcher, that led to the Falcons' only run in a 1-0 win that clinched the league crown. Kirker also played a big part in the Falcons' first win over the Bulldogs, going deep to opposite-field right.

It wasn't just on the offensive end in which Kirker excelled, however.

When standout catcher Lainey DePompa was lost to an injury midseason, Kirker debuted behind the plate in the Falcons' aforementioned first bout with Burbank.

“We didn't know how well it was going to turn out,” Cox says. “We knew she wouldn't let us down.”

Kirker didn't let the team down. When she departs Crescenta Valley for the University of Arizona, many believe she'll play at first base or third base. But this year she stepped back behind the plate for the first time since Little League and excelled, playing nearly spotless defense.

“We needed help,” she says. “I did the best that I could back there.”

Her best at shortstop was truly magnificent, as, even among a raucous celebration after defeating Crescenta Valley, 3-2, in the CIF semifinals, La Serna and its fans were marveling about Kirker's diving stops and all-around defensive prowess.

“It comes down to knowledge of the game,” Berry says of her defensive ability at multiple positions. “She's a student of the game.”

A student who evolved into a leader that cared about nothing more than Falcons success.

“It's just amazing to have a player so fully commit herself to the team,” Cox says. “Even when she's hitting all those home runs, it never went to her head.”

With Kirker as the centerpiece, the Falcons offense exploded in a scoring frenzy. The Falcons pushed around their opposition to the tune of a 321-38 disparity, scoring more than 10 runs in 16 games. They ran roughshod over league foes en route to an undefeated title and advanced to the CIF semifinals for the first time since the turn of the century.

“Each game was like, 'Wow,'” she recalls. “Games we thought would be 1-0 or 2-0 turned out to be 6-0. We got stronger as we kept going.”

And, with all that Kirker has already accomplished, the question of what lies ahead is an enticing one.

“She knew this year she had to perform,” Cox says. “She wanted to do better than last year and better than her freshman year. She'll want to do better next year than she did this year.”

It's easy to see that the excess that has become the norm in her play has done nothing to disrupt her modesty.

Never the less, without a doubt, this year, Kirker was the very best.

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