Given his first two varsity baseball seasons, Tim Hilyard, a C. Milton Wright senior, had no reason to expect great things this spring. Overall, the team was highly rated on paper (No. 14 preseason), but it still had to produce on the field.
The player and the team have come through in fine style, as Hilyard is among the Harford County leaders in hitting and pitching, and the team (16-2, 7-1) is in first place in the league.
Two years ago, Hilyard started at third base, but after several games "I was 0-for-12 and wondering why the coach was playing me."
He survived that, but a year ago, it was a case of "No one took charge. We were a bunch of individuals and [played] kind of dead."
The team records reflected this, and with all the starters but two returning, it was a question of whether the woes would continue, or the team would get itself straightened out.
"We came into the season feeling we were good. Our confidence level was high," Hilyard said recently. An ability to give and take when teammates start needling, jabbing at one another, has helped, too.
"Oh, yeah, sometimes we can be critical of each other, but it's all in fun and keeps us loose."
Splitting time between shortstop and pitching, Hilyard has emerged as one of the county's best players. He has a batting average near .550; leads the county in hits and runs scored; and is among the first three in runs batted in and stolen bases. As a pitcher, he is 5-0, with an earned-run average under 2.00, and averaging a strikeout an inning.
Of his work afield, the 5-foot-10, 140-pound Hilyard says, "I like both positions, but at short I love to dive for ground balls. I guess that's my soccer background."
The four-year starter and three-time All-County selection in the fall sport admits that sometimes it causes him trouble, too, because of the differences in making the stops. "It's how you make your hands work."
As a pitcher, he has a good fastball and curve, but has forsaken the latter in favor of a forkball as his best pitch.
Hilyard credits assistant coach Jim Fieldhouse for his improvement on the mound. "He retired a couple of years ago, but came back this spring, and he has worked with me.
"In the past, I would concentrate harder against the good teams, but this year I seem to be pitching better against everybody."
Even on an off day, such as against Edgewood last week when he allowed 10 hits during a route-going 9-6 victory, the Wright hitters make it easier. The Mustangs are averaging nearly 11 runs a game.
Specializing in sciences and carrying a 3.2 grade-point average, Hilyard is headed for Salisbury State in the fall, where he plans to study marine biology and hopes to play soccer and baseball.
First, though, is the rest of this season -- tomorrow's game, followed by regional play beginning Friday. How far can C. Milton Wright go?
"If we play like we did last Monday, not very. We fell apart in the field," Hilyard said, referring to an 8-2 loss to Fallston. "If we play like we have other times, though, I think we'll be all right.
Pub Date: 5/05/96