By Robert Wilson
Not many high school players have a 1.000 batting average in a game and even less hit 1.000 for the week. Even fewer hit 1.000 against playoff competition.
But that’s what St. Andrew’s junior shortstop Friend Walker did last week.
Walker went 9 for 9 with 9 runs batted in, 3 runs scored, a grand slam home run, a triple, a double and a stolen base to lead St. Andrew’s to three playoff victories.
For his outstanding performance, Walker has been named the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Baseball Player of the Week.
Walker was 3 for 3 with 5 RBIs, 2 runs scored and a grand slam home run and also pitched three innings of relief in a 12-2 victory over St. Patrick in Game 3 of the best of three series in the MHSAA Class 3A state first round. He was 2 of 2 with 3 RBIs and a triple in a 12-2 victory over Southeast Lauderdale in Game 1 of the best of three series in the second round and 4 for 4 with 1 RBI, 1 run scored and 1 double in a 4-3 victory over Southeast Lauderdale in Game 2 to sweep the series.
Walker walked three times and had a sacrifice bunt in his other four plate appearances. His on base percentage was .923 (12 of 13) for the week.
“Friend has been a tough out in the leadoff spot all season,” St. Andrew’s coach Mark Fanning said. “He has hit for some power as well as battling the pitcher to try and reach base. Friend spends lots of time in the batting cage hitting off a tee and then takes that same swing to the game. He had been hitting into some bad luck before his recent hot streak, but then things started to go his way. It is crazy for any baseball player to go 9 for 9, especially in these important playoff games. Nine RBIs from the leadoff spot is also rare and shows how much the bottom of our order was able to get on base. A big reason for Friend’s success is his hard work, but also the mental toughness that allows him to move to the next pitch or next play. He has also made many plays at shortstop and has been one of our top pitchers.”
Walker, who is St. Andrew’s leadoff hitter, has a .369 batting average with 36 runs, 30 RBIs, 4 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run and 20 stolen bases this season. He leads the team in triples and stolen bases and tied for the lead in runs scored. On the mound, Walker has a 4-0 record with a 1.81 earned run average with 32 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has the lowest ERA on the team.
St. Andrew’s, 23-10, lost 6-1 to Clarkdale Tuesday in Game 1 of the best of three series in the 3A state quarterfinals. The two teams play Friday at 7 p.m. in Game 2 at Clarkdale in Meridian. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for 6 p.m. at St. Andrew’s in Ridgeland.
Coaches can nominate their players by calling or texting Robert Wilson at 601.506.2276. Only players who play for teams in Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties are eligible.