Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
While preseason All-American shortstop Kevin Smith has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Maryland baseball team has showcased its tremendous depth.
Senior Pat Hisle has stepped up and made use of his playing time. He prides himself on defense, but he’s been able to come through for the Terps in crucial moments at the plate. He will most likely be called upon again this weekend when Penn State comes to College Park for a series against Maryland.
“He’s been pretty big. I think we’re 6-3 since he’s played,” head coach John Szefc said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he’s an older guy and he’s been in the system for the four years so it’s not like you’re throwing a true freshman out there.”
Hisle earned his first start against Rutgers in the first game of a doubleheader on April 2. In that game, he made a play at shortstop where he took three steps to his right, collected the ball without backhanding it and then had enough arm strength to finish the play at first to get the out.
“It kind of just hit home to me a little bit that okay, that was not an easy play,” Szefc said. “It kind of gave me a little sense of calmness that the position is still stable and it’s under control, even though the guy that’s been playing there for the last two and a half years isn’t in it.”
Smith said he doesn’t think the phrase “fill in” accurately describes what Hisle has down in Smith’s absence.
“I went down and he just kind of stepped into his role and I think he would do that at most colleges,” Smith said. “It’s good to know that we have about three or four infield guys that can take anyone’s place at any time and we’re not really worried about anyone going down because we know someone else is going to step into the job.”
While Smith casts a long shadow over the position he’s trying to fill, Hisle stayed focused on his number one priority when he needed to come in the game: playing good defense.
“It was almost a normal day for me, staying on my toes,” Hisle said. “[I] was just getting my mind right, getting myself focusing and saying, ‘Look, I need to go out there and play good defense.’”
In the nine-game span where Hisle has gotten significant playing time, he has also come through at the plate in crucial moments. He scored the winning run in a comeback effort against Richmond. Hisle recalled that game as his favorite, but he tries not to think too much about any of his individual performances.
“Szefc’s always preaching not too high, not too low, stay nice and steady,” Hisle said. “That’s just what I’ve been trying to do, not get wrapped up in any single moment.”
Hisle does have a moment that the rest of the team will remember, though. He hit a double off the center field wall, but tripped and fell while rounding first base against Rutgers.
“He’ll never really live down that fall, that was a pretty funny moment,” Smith said.
He recovered and made it to second base, but the telecast caught the stumble on air.
First hit of the year is an RBI double. Got a little excited rounding first and lost his feet 😂. 6-0 https://t.co/XbsCjJGRBM
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) April 2, 2017
“I don’t even know what happened. I think I just took a wide turn or something,” Hisle said. “I definitely got a little excited and next thing I knew I was face first in the turf.”
Smith was the designated hitter for the Terps on Wednesday against George Mason and could do that again in the series with Penn State. For Hisle, though, it doesn’t matter whether he plays or is cheering the team on from the dugout. He just wants to soak it all in for his final year of college baseball.
“I just try to enjoy every minute of it. It’s all I can do,” Hisle said. “It’s been fun to get on the field and get to show what I can do too.”
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