Tupelo Golden Wave’s Baldwin hopes to make racket with lucky cap

JACKSON – Zac Baldwin begins his quest for a state tennis championship here today, but without his one-of-a-kind “Zac Baldwin” model racquet.
The Tupelo High School player built an old school wooden racquet for his senior project. However, it’s only for show.
“It’s really fragile,” Baldwin said. “I didn’t go through all the chemical processes that strengthen the wood. I strung the racquet really light … about 10 pounds of tension per square inch. A regular racquet is around 50 pounds.
“I haven’t hit a ball with it, just tapped one.”
The racquet Baldwin will use today in his MHSAA Class 6A state tournament opening-round boys singles match against Jim Hill’s Ryan Swainer at the Bridges Tennis Center packs a lot more punch.
Baldwin, who recently signed an NCAA Division III tennis scholarship with Huntington (Ala.) College, enters the state tournament with a 13-2 record. Outside of high school play he’s ranked No. 5 in his age division by the Mississippi Tennis Association and No. 255 in the USTA’s southern region.
“I’m going to push myself the farthest I can go this week,” said the left-hander, who favors his baseline game. “I’d like to win it, go out with a bang my senior year.”
Baldwin will also be wearing a Pokemon cap, one he found buried in the bottom of his bedroom closet prior to last season.
“I was a huge fan of Pokemon back in the day,” he said, then laughed. “It’s been my lucky hat the last two years. I haven’t played a match without it.”
Other players recognize the cap right away.
“A lot of people my age know about it,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘Is that a Pokemon hat? Dude, that’s awesome.’”
Tupelo was eliminated from the team portion of the state tournament, however, the Golden Wave did have other players qualify for individual tournament play: Aaron Hildrenbrand and Andrew Hildenbrand in boys doubles, Lauren Bell and Leslie Hamm in girls No. 1 doubles, and Kat Stratton and Ashley Williams in girls No. 2 doubles.
Teams playing for state titles today: (6A) Northwest Rankin vs. Ocean Springs, (5A) Oxford vs. Stone County, (4A) Newton County vs. Pontotoc-Cleveland winner, (3A) Corinth vs. the Philadelphia-St. Andrew’s winner, (2A) Madison St. Joe vs. Wesson, (1A) Greenville St. Joe vs. Sacred Heart.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal