A mound of talent

Although only a sophomore, Arundel pitcher-third baseman Tyler Hibbs is leading the Wildcats in their pursuit of an unprecedented 10th state title.

May 24, 2006|By PAT O'MALLEY | PAT O'MALLEY,SUN REPORTER

Tyler Hibbs' 16 career wins place him in a seventh-place tie on Arundel's all-time list. His next double will set a school career record.

This season, he's batting .444 with 27 RBIs and 24 runs scored, and he's 11-1 with 1.28 ERA.

And, he's just a sophomore.

"When we first saw him play, we realized we had a special talent," said Arundel coach Bernie Walter, whose teams have won a record nine state championships.

Hibbs is neither big - 5 feet 10, 150 pounds - nor overpowering. But he has a presence, whether he's pitching, hitting or playing third base.

"He has great baseball talent and instincts, with great hands and a great arm," Walter said. "He is just an all-around outstanding player. A lot of Division I schools are already looking at him. Tyler is an incredibly competitive athlete. And he is polished."

He's also resilient.

Arundel blew a seven-run lead in last season's Class 4A state final and lost to Quince Orchard, 10-9. Hibbs started the game, was removed and returned in the sixth inning, eventually giving up the winning hit.

He came back this season determined to help produce a different outcome in the state tournament for the top-ranked Wildcats.

Hibbs won five games as a freshman, two in the playoffs, where he also recorded two of his three saves. He said he surprised himself by making the varsity, but "I realized that I could be as good as the older guys and held my own."

He has learned the game by playing it, not from watching it.

"I don't watch baseball on TV, don't watch much TV at all," Hibbs said. "I think baseball is kind of boring on TV and would rather be playing than watching. I like being outside. "

Hibbs started playing T-ball at age 5 in the Odenton area. His father, Tom Hibbs, who played high school baseball at Parkdale in Prince George's County, realized Tyler had a strong arm and encouraged him to start taking pitching seriously when he was 12.

Tyler has been receiving lessons from Walter for the past two years. Hibbs throws a fastball, curve and changeup for strikes and said he can throw a slider, but he doesn't use it that much.

"Hibbs is smart, knows how to pitch," Chesapeake coach Jim Simms said after his Cougars were four-hit by Hibbs in the regular season. "He makes you hit his pitch."

Indeed, location is a major part of Hibbs' success. So is intelligence, which he carries over to the classroom, where he has a 3.70 grade point average.

"I've learned so much from Coach Walter as far as setting up hitters, things like that," said Hibbs, who also plays for Walter in the summer on the Maryland Monarchs 18-and-under team, where he was a 15-year-old standout.

This week, Hibbs took an 11-1 record, including a 5-0 no-hitter over North County, into the Class 4A state semifinals. The 11 wins make him the fifth Arundel pitcher to win that many in a single season.

Hibbs is also making a name for himself as a hitter. He recently tied Casey Trout (1994-95) and Norris Roy (1997-99) for the Arundel career record with his 21st double.

He has 16 doubles this season, tied with teammate Jason Daniels for the team lead and two shy of the Wildcats' season record of 18 by Nick Pleyo in 2001. Pleyo's 18 is also a state public school record. The state record is 19, set by St. Paul's Steve Johnson last year.

All that Hibbs has done in such a short time doesn't surprise junior Shawn Pleffner, who is Hibbs' best friend.

"He's a heck of a competitor, and when he pitches, we know we're going to win," said Pleffner, who hit two homers in the Wildcats' 12-0 win over North County in a Class 4A East semifinal.

Hibbs hopes to make a career out of baseball.

"I would like to go to Florida State, but I may choose a junior college in order to stay eligible for the draft," he said. "I'm sure I will end up a pitcher [down the road] and my goal is to play pro ball."

patomalleysports@aol.com

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