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HCC baseball foursome sign letters of intent

May 11, 2001

HCC baseball foursome sign letters of intent



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Community College baseball wagon train has travel a long way along the trail of success this season.

On Thursday, the time came for four of the team's workhorse to move on to bigger and better things.

Four of HCC's top players - P.J. Hiser, Derek Hoffman, Regan Smith and Brooks Williams - each signed letters of intent to generate an immediate impact at three nearby Division I programs during a press conference in the school's athletic offices.

"These guys are big part of how we got to where we are," HCC coach Scott Jennings said. "They aren't the only reasons, but they are major ones. Each player has to look at what's the best fit for him. Each one has a chance to jump for some major playing time. When you get four players going to Division I schools, those schools are looking for immediate impact."

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Hiser, a South Hagerstown graduate, and Williams declared in the early signing period to play at Pittsburgh while Hoffman, a Hancock graduate, agreed to take his 6-foot-8 pitching frame to Maryland and Smith, of Waynesboro, Pa., will attend West Virginia with a major shot at becoming the Mountaineers' starting catcher. HCC has had six athletes agree to attend either Big East or Atlantic Coast Conference schools this season.

Hiser's trip to Pittsburgh ends his meteoric rise to the forefront of the local baseball scene. After making a mark on the youth, high school and amateur levels, Hiser went on to lead HCC in eight offensive and three pitching categories, as the Hawks have accumulated a 29-10 record and a berth in this weekend's Region XX tournament at Garrett Community College.

Hiser is hitting .374 with 46 hits, including 10 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs with 50 RBI as an outfielder for the Hawks. He is 8-1 as a pitcher with a 2.88 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 56 innings.

"It's a great opportunity to further my education and my athletics at Pitt," Hiser said. "I'd like to get my four-year degree in physical education and I hope to get drafted to pursue a major league baseball career."

Hiser may have the opportunity to pick where his future lies after June's amateur draft.

"He's raised his level of play so much," Jennings said. "He's a fierce competitor that just won't give in. He's drawn so much attention, especially when he's pitching. When he pitches, he has four or five scouts watching."

Hoffman has been a two-sport athlete at HCC, also playing basketball. The dual roles slowed his baseball development, which may have kept him available for Maryland.

"Derek is a slow bloomer," Jennings said. "He has never been able to solely work on baseball, but he has a high ceiling (for development). With his height, he pitches from a different arm angle than most are used to seeing. It's something different, but a lot of schools were making a lot of offers. I'd put P.J. and Derek out there against anyone."

Hoffman is 6-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 44 2/3 innings for the Hawks while walking 31 and striking out 46.

Hoffman said he decided on Maryland within a week of being first contacted. The possibilities of playing immediately and the closeness to home made the choice easy.

"It is definitely exciting and a big opportunity," Hoffman said. "Playing in the ACC was a goal. I wasn't sure it would ever happen, but it did."

Williams will be getting the chance to add strength up the middle of Pitt's defense as a shortstop or at second base. He is hitting .320 for the Hawks with two home runs and 22 RBI.

"I'm from central Pennsylvania and they came down to see me in the fall," Williams said. "They said they were short a shortstop for next season, but I could end up at second base. When I go there, I'll definitely work hard. A shortstop is supposed to be the leader on the field and I definitely would like to give them some actions to follow."

Smith overcame huge odds to be able to sign with WVU. The catcher missed an entire season after undergoing Tommy John elbow lingament replacement surgery.

"I've always had the goal to play Division I baseball and to get drafted," Smith said. "Now I have one down and one to go. It will be a big responsibility for me to step up and be the catcher at WVU but they told me they wanted a JuCo catcher to come in against a freshman. It's a full ride and it's my job to lose."

Smith is hitting .321 with seven home runs and 26 RBI, doing the majority of the catching for the Hawks. He had the hit to win the Region XX play-in game for HCC earlier in the week, only making he signing more meaningful.

"I've always been pushed by my parents and my coaches," Smith said. "I always thought I had the ability to get here. I just thank God I got the chance."

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