Scott County’s Cam Hill committed to play baseball at Kentucky long before the now-SEC Coach of the Year Nick Mingione was hired.
With the staff that recruited him gone, Hill was “scared to death” about what would happen to his scholarship offer and the direction of the program.
But he didn’t have to wait until UK’s historic run to the NCAA super regionals to have those fears eased. Mingione called him soon after he took over. They first met at a UK football game last fall.
“As soon as I got down there, we got our little passes and he had the biggest grin on his face,” Hill recalled. “I’ve never seen anything like it. He came, he hugged my grandmother, my mother, my father, like he knew them for years. And we just got to talking about family life and what my goals were and he was already trying to really get to know me.”
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Safe to say, Mingione made an impression.
“He’s a great coach, honestly,” Hill said. “He’s probably one of the best coaches I’m going to have. After I saw the interviews he’s had about talking with Marcus Carson about how hard he works, I know that he’s a family guy and he wants the best for me.”
Hill can make quite an impression himself. As the leadoff hitter of the 11th Region champion Cardinals, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, Hill spearheads an offense second only to No. 1 Louisville Trinity in the number of runs produced (303).
“He deserves everything that he’s gotten because of the fact that he works so hard,” said Scott County Coach Scott Willard, in his 12th season with the Cardinals. “I’ve coached high school baseball for almost 30 years, and I can say without a doubt he’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever had.”
The center fielder works on his game in summer, fall and winter to a degree Willard sometimes can’t believe.
“I was going to Thanksgiving dinner and drove by the field and he was out here on Thanksgiving day flipping a tire,” Willard said. “He’s always doing something. … I thought, ‘that’s Cam.’”
Willard likes to use his team’s speed to mount pressure on opponents. Hill has the green light whenever he gets to first.
“It’s always an advantage to us. It’s like a Rickey Henderson double,” Hill said, referring to Major League Baseball’s stolen bases leader.
And, now that Hill has recovered from some biceps tendinitis in his throwing arm, Willard has another potential closer on the mound. Hill got the save in the 11th Region semifinals against Lafayette last week.
“He throws very hard off the mound,” Willard said. “It’s nice to have that luxury if something comes about, he can come in and close, too.”
Scott County, making its second straight appearance in the state tournament, is far from just the Cam Hill show, however. Freshman first baseman/pitcher Cade McKee was named the 11th Region tournament MVP. Add in juniors Sam Sutton and Brice Fryman and sophomores Trace Willhoite and Kyle Harbison and you have the heart of a hitting lineup that wreaks havoc every game at the plate and on the bases.
“It’s a really good group of young men that do the right thing in the classroom and come to practice every day and work hard and we’re reaping the rewards of their hard work,” Willard said. “It’s been a really, really fun year and been a really good group to coach.”
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington
When: June 8-10; June 16-17
Tickets: $10 general admission; $14 home plate (Prices are per individual session through the Lexington Legends website at bit.ly/2sdmcg9)