MHS graduate Hillygus back on diamond

Hunter Hillygus didn’t find the initial fit he was looking for to continue his career on the diamond.

Though after several months outside the base paths, he realized he wanted to come back.

Following his freshman year at the University of Northern Iowa, Hillygus is transferring to Simpson College to reconvene his baseball pursuits.

The 2013 Marshalltown grad turned down offers from Northwest Missouri State University, Northwestern College (IA) and Bethany Lutheran College (MN) before heading to Cedar Falls, though he soon realized he was destined for someplace new.

“At UNI I wasn’t enjoying myself,” Hillygus said. “I just realized that I missed baseball and I wanted to play again.”

As a senior, the 2013 Iowa Newspaper Association All-State third team selection at first base led the Bobcats in seven offensive categories with 52 hits, 15 doubles, two home runs, 36 RBIs, seven hit-by-pitches, a .397 batting average and a .487 on-base percentage.

Hillygus also shined defensively making just three errors in 308 total chances with 20 assists, while posting a .990 fielding percentage.

While his final season helped draw offers from the Bearcats, Red Raiders and Vikings, Hillygus never felt a strong pull to any of the schools.

“When I went to visit all those schools, there wasn’t really something that stuck out and made me say, ‘I want to go here,'” Hillygus said.

“So it was just kind of easier for me to stay closer to home.”

Though UNI kept him close to home in proximity, it left him farther away from his passion on the diamond.

It was time for a change.

Hillygus contacted Simpson College head coach Ben Blake by email and went down to Indianola for a campus visit to see a couple games in the spring.

Hillygus found the fit none of the previous schools could provide and realized he didn’t need to search any further.

“I really liked what I saw and didn’t need to go to any other schools,” Hillygus said. “It was close to home, the facilities were cool – they have a new fitness and weight room there – and they have a different variance of my major that I was really interested in.”

Hillygus, who will major in multimedia journalism at Simpson, confirmed his interest in the school with Blake and the Storm coach welcomed him to the roster.

Blake, the brother of former Major League Baseball player Casey Blake, is entering his ninth season at the helm with a career mark of 166-168 at Simpson.

He’s No. 2 on the school’s all-time wins list and has four 20-win seasons under his belt including last year’s 22-22 campaign.

Simpson finished fifth in the Iowa Conference with a 12-16 mark.

Hillygus, a 2013 all-Central Iowa Conference second team selection, will vie with a couple other players for the starting job at first base as the Storm must replace senior graduate Tyler Craig.

To prepare for the upcoming challenge, the former Bobcat has gotten back into a routine of lifting weights, hitting and throwing.

Hillygus also drew some inspiration from seeing his former team in action this summer.

Marshalltown nearly made the state tournament falling just short in a 5-4 substate final loss to Southeast Polk – the eventual state champion.

“They had a really great year,” Hillygus said of the Bobcats.

“I was really proud and excited to see them play so well this year.”

Inspired by many of his former teammates and eager to return after a year away from the diamond, Hillygus hopes he can provide an instant impact with the Storm.

“I hope I can come in and work hard right away and hopefully earn myself a starting spot.”