There’s a moment in Toby Becker’s baseball career that always will haunt him.

The stakes were high for Rock Creek in the 3A state tournament May 23. The Mustangs were the top seed and faced Burlington in the quarterfinals. Becker, the senior pitcher, got the start, but had a pitch get away from him early.

“First inning, it was the second batter, second pitch and it was a two seam,” Becker, a Truman State commit for 2020, said. “I plunked him and put him straight on first.”

Becker said he’s had his doubts about his own baseball career in the past. At times, he lost motivation to practice, wake up early and stay awake for long days, grinding and trying to improve. But this was not a time of doubt. He said he knew he probably shouldn’t throw his two-seam any more that game because it naturally cuts inside.

Hitting a batter didn’t have him scared to throw to the next guy, Becker said.

“If anything I think it kind of boosted my confidence, because I may have put some fear into their eyes at the plate,” Becker said. “So I walked around with a bit of swagger after that.”

The Mercury selected Toby Becker as its All-Flint Hills Player of the year in baseball. Becker had a standout senior campaign where he tied a Mustangs single-season record for wins, going 8-1 after pitching 51.1 innings. He earned first-team all-state honors, too.

The Burlington baserunner didn’t get past first after Becker’s fastball hit him. Nobody for Burlington did, actually, because Becker ended up throwing a no-hitter. Becker went 8-1 as a starting pitcher with 51.1 innings pitched

“One pitch away from a perfect game. I’ll probably never let that go,” Becker said. “A perfect game would’ve been awesome, I’ve only thrown one other of those in my life, and it was at K-State two years ago.”

While Becker was dealing on the mound that day, he credited the defense behind him, which he said made several “All-Star, ESPN-type plays”. This is a development in Becker’s psyche — not because he used to take all the credit, but because he used to spend all of his outings trying to strike batter out. So he looked to some of his pro-baseball favorites: Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and his all-time favorite, Greg Maddux.

There’s also a Sandy Koufax quote that Becker liked.

“He said he became a great pitcher when he stopped trying to strike people out and started trying to make batters hit the ball,” Becker said. “That’s one of the biggest things about pitching. Just throw strikes and let your defense take care of business.”

Becker can’t stop thinking about his future. One of the biggest factors for him continuing to pursue a baseball career past high school is that avoiding college debt always was a goal of his.

“It was a big part of my family. They pushed me because they wanted me to avoid all of that college debt that they had to go through,” Becker said. “That was their big motivator to me. And I’ve always wanted to play on a college team.”

At Truman State, where Becker committed to play college ball, he first looks forward to the physical aspect of adding muscle. He said he looked at the roster and saw a bunch of guys taller and stronger than him, motivating because he is accustomed to being one of the biggest guys on his team. Becker likes the talent he sees the same way he liked what Rock Creek had going before he was entering his high school career.

“I think that was from a very young age,” Becker said. “It was actually a reason I chose Rock Creek for a high school — because of Shane Sieben because I knew he was an awesome guy and he would get me to where I needed to be.”

All-Flint Hills First Team

Zac Cox, Manhattan, Sr.

Cox played 87 games, the most in the history of the Indians program. He was dominant at the plate, batting .382 and never helping out the opposing pitcher, striking out zero times his senior season. Cox had 14 RBIs with 26 hits and 19 runs. He also had two saves as a pitcher.

Cade Perkins, Manhattan, Fr.

Perkins earned Newcomer of the Year honors within the Centennial League after pitching 28.2 innings as a freshman. He had one save and was 4-1, allowing 30 hits and striking out 34 batters.

Brooks Whaley, Rock Creek, So.

Whaley was a top contributor on a Rock Creek roster with a lot of upperclassmen as a sophomore. He batted .419 with 36 hits and 26 RBIs.

Garret Harmison, Riley County, Jr.

Harmison already is one of the most decorated players on the Riley County roster as a three-time Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches honoree and making the All-Mid-East League first team. He batted .518 with 31 RBIs and never struck out. Harmison also went 5-1 as a pitcher.

Tristan Kulp, Riley County, Sr.

Kulp also was a first-team All-MEL selection, and was dangerous on the basepaths in his final season for Riley County, accumulating 37 steals. Kulp had 37 hits and scored 32 runs.

Karter Carlson, Rock Creek, Sr.

Carlson had a strong senior season for the Mustangs, batting a .391 clip with 25 RBIs and 20 runs. Carlson also hit a home run in the 3A state championship game against Sabetha.

Logan Brown, Wabaunsee, Sr.

Brown was a first-team All-MEL selection for the Chargers. He batted over .400, finishing at a .463 clip with 25 hits, 15 RBIs, a homer and two triples.

Dayne Aschenbrenner, Manhattan, So.

Aschenbrenner earned second-team All-Centennial honors for the Indians in his second year at Manhattan. He had 21 hits in 60 plate appearances and also was solid on the mound, boasting a 0.96 ERA and going 2-0 in 9.1 innings pitched.

Mason Sturdy, Rock Creek, So.

Sturdy had the second-best batting average for the Mustangs, hitting .412 on the season. He had 33 hits with seven doubles, and also was a key pitcher for Rock Creek. Sturdy had a 2.01 ERA, accumulating the second-most wins (after Becker) at 7-1.

Honorable mention

Tyce Hoover, Manhattan, Jr.; Cameron Minihan, Rock Creek, Sr.; Connor Holle, Riley County, So.; Avery Holle, Riley County, So.; Cameron Turnbull, Rock Creek, Sr.; Jackson Frank, Wabaunsee, Jr.; Nate Williams, Rock Creek, Sr.