Hill feeling right at home with Schooners

Mystic shortstop Aaron Hill, a former Fitch great who recently completed his freshman season at UConn, is hitting .354 in his first season with the Schooners.
Mystic shortstop Aaron Hill, a former Fitch great who recently completed his freshman season at UConn, is hitting .354 in his first season with the Schooners. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

Groton — Aaron Hill considered leaving the area to play summer baseball.

It would be good to get away from home, he thought, after basically spending his whole life in southeastern Connecticut.

Then he experienced a bout of homesickness during his freshman year at UConn and decided to stick around.

It ended up being a wise move.

Hill couldn't be happier playing for the Mystic Schooners, whose home field is Fitch High School, where he starred for the Falcons.

"It's going well," Hill said. "It's a lot of fun. ... I'm glad I came here. It's a great place."

In his first season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, Hill is tearing it up. He ranked in the top 10 in the league in hitting heading into Tuesday's game against the Ocean State Waves. He went 2-for-4 with a double in a 4-3 win in 10 innings, raising his batting average to .354.

Manager Phil Orbe met with Hill last fall in Storrs to gauge his interest about joining the Schooners.

"I wanted to make sure that he was comfortable coming back here," Orbe said. "For some kids, maybe they want to go out to the Coastal Plains League or the Northwoods League to go play. ... He wanted to stay local so his family could see him play and he had a job.

"... It was a pretty natural fit for him. He's been a tremendous addition for us."

Hill has been a regular in the starting lineup at shortstop, starting 19 of 22 games. He's playing with confidence, ranking second on the team in batting. He's one of four Schooners with double figure RBI with 11.

Hill explained the reason for his success at the plate.

"I'm definitely just more relaxed," Hill said. "At UConn, I was really tense and tried to do too much and I was thinking too much at the plate. Now I'm like, you know what, see the ball and hit the ball. Keep it simple."

The laid-back summer baseball atmosphere suits Hill, who struggled in his first season at UConn, batting just .200. On the plus side, he appeared in 44 games, starting 38 for the Huskies. He started out at shortstop and then switched to left field and second base when Tom Verdi returned from an injury.

It was a challenge making the transition from high school to college baseball. But he eventually grew from the adversity.

"I've matured," Hill said. "I know how to deal with adversity. I played a lot of games my freshman year and saw the type of pitching and I got used to it. Now I know what to expect."

Hill continues to work on his all-around game. Orbe would like Hill to cut down on his strikeouts (a team-high 25), but he's hitting roughly .450 when he puts a ball in play.

After a rocky start in the field, Hill has improved defensively, committing only one of his seven errors in the last 12 games, Orbe said.

He made a key rally-killing play in Sunday's win at Newport.

"He's really relaxed a little bit," Orbe said. "It was just a matter of him slowing everything down. Sometimes your greatest strength is your biggest weakness. That has to do with his athleticism and speed, he was just trying to get to balls too quickly."

When Hill's not playing for the Schooners, he's working for the Groton Recreation Department as a camp leader. His favorite game: dodgeball.

He's looking forward to many more happy and productive summer days with the Schooners.

"I love playing for this team," Hill said. "Everyone on this team is awesome. Everyone is chill. Everyone is cool and laid-back. It's fun. It's not too much pressure to get a run in or make a play. Just play the game."

News and notes

• Stephen Laurino (Marist), the league's top hitter at .432, drove in the game-tying run in the 10th inning and the winning run scored on an error. He finished with two hits and two RBI and made a nice defensive play in left field. ... Other defensive gems: center fielder Zachary Weigel's great diving catch to take away in a hit with two runners on in the second and catcher Chase Livingston, an East Lyme graduate, gunning down a runner at third. ... Reliever Luis Concato (3-0) earned the win. .... Right-hander Conor Gleason of North Stonington recently rejoined the team. He pitched for Mystic last summer, going 2-0 with a 2.25 earned run average. ... Mystic's next home game is Monday against Sanford. The Schooners are 15-7.

g.keefe@theday.com

Mystic shortstop Aaron Hill, left, joins the rest of the infield during a pitching change on Tuesday night. Hill, the former Fitch great, is hitting .354 in his first season with the Schooners, who beat Ocean State 4-3 in 10 innings.
Mystic shortstop Aaron Hill, left, joins the rest of the infield during a pitching change on Tuesday night. Hill, the former Fitch great, is hitting .354 in his first season with the Schooners, who beat Ocean State 4-3 in 10 innings. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo
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