Friday, August 04, 2006

Hilligoss Progressing Well On Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND, NY -One player who has stood out for the Baby Bombers this season is infielder Mitch Hilligoss.

With two more hits in three plate appearances in Friday night's 9-7 loss to Lowell, the former University of Purdue product moved into a second place tie for the NY-Penn League in hitting with a .346 average. Aside from that, the Staten Island shortstop/third baseman also ranks second with 53 hits. He also was tied for second on the club with Wilmer Pino with seven stolen bases and placed second in walks (17) and on-base percentage (.409) entering Friday.

Selected by the Yankees in the sixth round of this year's MLB Draft, the 21 year-old from Windsor Illinois has gotten acclimated quickly to professional baseball.

"I'm going out there everyday getting in a groove," Hilligoss said after also scoring two runs and notching his 27th RBI of the season.

"When you're hitting well, you don't think about it much. When you're hitting bad, sometimes you're really tested and you got to work a little harder maybe that next day."

One of the things the two-time first team Big Ten shortstop appreciated the most was that he was able to star close to home, which made it easier for the home folks to see him.

"It was great," he expressed. "My family got to go about everywhere we went. Made about every road trip. That helps a lot. Any transition that helps with your parents being close by and family members."

Though he has done really well adjusting from college to his rookie season in A Ball, the former Boilermaker star has noticed a difference.

"Pitching's been good. Up and down for the most part. A lot more movement on fastballs you see. Some decent breaking balls but it's just getting into a groove," as he previously pointed out.

It would help explain his continued success from college. In his junior year at Purdue, Hilligoss paced the Boilermakers with a .386 average and scored a program record 62 runs along with leading them with a .579 slugging percentage and .453 on-base percentage.

That kind of production was good enough for the Yankees to take him 194th overall this past June- making him the 42nd Boilermaker taken in the draft's history and the first to ever be scooped up by the Bronx Bombers.

"It's amazing," he said. "A lot of build up. A lot of nerves. Tension. Everything. You don't know what's going to happen. Nobody really knows. That day, it was a great feeling."

After starting the season at short, Hilligoss has made a smooth transition to third without missing a beat. The interesting thing is he also played second and started college in left field, which makes him a very versatile asset.

"I personally think I might be a better outfielder than anything but third base has been good to me so far."

Aside from exuding confidence in his ability to play well at different positions, the first year infielder also spoke at length about the makeup of his new team.

"We got a good mix of guys. We're playing well together. Obviously, the pitching picked us up early. As of late, the hitting's been a little better. We just got to find a little consistency. Hopefully, we'll do both towards the stretch run even better than we have been."

Hilligoss also has one expectation.

"Our goal is to win our division and then see what happens with the NY-Penn League Championship."


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