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Fairland#039;s King of the Hill

PROCTORVILLE - For Michael Hill, some things never change.

And that's fine with him.

The Fairland Dragons senior pitcher began the high school baseball season with a scholarship already in hand, but he couldn't relax. The East Carolina recruit said neither his approach to the game nor his emotions ever changed.

"I feel nervous before every game. I feel have prove why I'm going (to East Carolina). There are people around me who doubted me. I wanted to prove I could do it," Hill said.

The Dragons won a fourth-straight Ohio Valley Conference championship and qualified for the Division III regional tournament for the second time in four years. But an 8-2 loss to Adena on Friday ended the run and Hill's high school career.

"We had a good year. We had a better year than I thought we would," Hill said. "But after the first few weeks of the season, I had higher expectations. I thought we could go to the region and possibly the state. I thought our hitting started slacking off at the end of the year, but I guess that happens."

As a pitcher, Hill was 7-2 with 95 strikeouts in 53 innings and allowed just 10 earned runs for a 1.31 ERA.

In the previous three seasons, Hill was 18-7 with a 1.65 earned run average in 152.2 innings. He had 263 strikeouts and just 59 walks while allowing 104 hits.

While Hill's reputation is mainly as a pitcher, he put up impressive numbers this season as a hitter. Hill batted .614 with nine home runs and 47 runs batted in.

"Michael was a hitting machine all year. He was a true hitter," Fairland coach Roger Snyder.

Despite all his recent success as a hitter, Hill still wants to make his mark in college as a pitcher.

"I wouldn't back down from (being a regular). My goal in college is to play and then be a closer like Houston Street for Texas. As a freshman and sophomore he played and as junior he was just a closer," Hill said.

"I wouldn't care to play every day, but I need to work on my hitting more to be able to hit at the next level. Once I get down there, I'll gain 15 to 20 pounds. That'll increase my strength and make me quicker."

Hill played every day during his high school career. A four-year starter, Hill helped lead the Dragons to 67 wins during that span.

"I thought I did well. Every year I had a better batting average. I had better statistics. This year I went out and surprised myself," Hill said.

A lot of Hill's success this year was due to a winter workout program that included lifting weights three or four times a week.

"I worked out hard and got stronger. My velocity was higher and I had more power at the plate than I've ever had. It was a fun year," Hill said.

Throughout his career, Hill has had plenty of guidance and instruction from his father, Greg, who was a shortstop at Marshall and played catcher in the Minnesota Twins organization.

But there were others such as Snyder and professional pitchers Jon and Tim Adkins. Jon Adkins is in the Chicago White Sox organization.

"Coach Snyder has pushed me all four years. He never let me slack off. He would tell me if I was slacking or what I was doing wrong," Hill said.

"John worked with me pitching in offseason the last two years and Timmy helped me, too.

Another person who helped Michael when he was 13 years old was Ryan Roush, his coach with the Huntington (W.Va.) Hounds. Roush also played at Marshall and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.

"Ryan Roush was a real big inspiration for me. He was a good coach and he helped me out a lot," Hill said.

Snyder said Hill's contributions were critical for the Dragons.

"He just did everything for us. He's been the total ballplayer for us. He has a lot of baseball talent. I just hope he keeps improving. I think he'll succeed. When he was a freshman, he made some plays at shortstop that caught the attention of area coaches. They were impressed with him," Snyder said.