High School Baseball

Eastern Kentucky high school has state baseball player of the year

Rowan County’s AJ Hacker has been named Kentucky’s Gatorade baseball player of the year, the company announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior right-handed pitcher and infielder led the Vikings to a 35-3 record and the 61st District Tournament title and earned district MVP honors. The 16th Region Tournament begins Saturday.

Hacker has gone 9-1 on the mound with a save in 38 games, posting a 0.67 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched. Entering regionals, he’s surrendered 27 hits and issued 18 walks, holding opponents to a .122 batting average. At the plate, he’s hitting .446 with eight home runs, 45 RBI and 38 runs scored.

Hacker is the first Gatorade player of the year to be chosen from Rowan County High School. The award, in its 34th year, recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, according to the beverage company.

Hacker becomes a finalist for the national player of the year honor to be awarded later this month. He joins past Kentucky winners including Ryan Hawks (2018, Warren East), Jordon “Jo” Adell (2017, Ballard), Jaren Shelby (2016, Tates Creek), Caleb Bruner (2015, Logan County) and Kaleb Duckworth (2014, Henderson County).

Gatorade honors male and female athletes in 12 sports. Among those, one male and one female athlete are each named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year. In all, 607 athletes are honored each year.

Hacker led Rowan County to the KHSAA state tournament for the first time in 32 years in 2017, and owns a career record of 31-12 with 385 strikeouts in 246.2 innings. He is a 2019 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper High School First Team All-American, a 2019 Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American and a Mr. Kentucky Baseball candidate.

“AJ Hacker has dominated Kentucky high school baseball for several years,” said Bath County High School head coach Patrick Armitage. “His love for and dedication to the game are apparent every time he steps onto the field. As a rival coach in his district, I have witnessed AJ’s competitiveness, which should translate smoothly to the next level. The sky’s the limit for this young man.”

Hacker has a 3.84 weighted GPA and has signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at Morehead State.