April 16, 2009

By Greg Johnson
The NCAA News

Megan Hill is a self-described patient hitter.

The Southern Mississippi right fielder had that characteristic tested during a three-game series against Conference USA rival Central Florida April 4-5. After leading off the game with a solo home run and then smacking a two-run, bases-loaded single in her second at-bat, Hill was walked intentionally in 10 consecutive plate appearances.

The previous Division I record for consecutive bases on balls drawn was five, shared by Lisa Modglin of Cal Poly (2007), Garland Cooper of Northwestern (2006) and Hofstra’s Ashley Lane (2005).

Hill, who was batting .430 with nine home runs and 38 RBI through April 13, was hitting leadoff because her sister Courtney – the Golden Eagles’ usual No. 1 hitter – is injured.

Southern Mississippi coach Howard Dobson figured his team needed a jolt at that part of the lineup, and teams couldn’t pitch around Megan Hill.

“In my next at-bat Central Florida intentionally walked me, and I thought, ‘OK this is cool,’ ” said Hill, who normally hits cleanup. “I thought they would just do it for my last two at-bats in that game. I was not expecting that to continue for the rest of the series.”

Southern Mississippi won the first game, 5-4, but Central Florida’s strategy to put Hill on base – no matter the situation – helped the Knights down the Golden Eagles, 2-1, and 5-4, in the last two games of the series.

“One inning the first two runners got on base and we didn’t have any outs,” said Hill, who also has 13 doubles on the season. “They walked me to load the bases anyway.”

The Golden Eagles managed to score one run in that inning.

In the third game of the series, Hill scored two runs to help offset Central Florida’s strategy.

“When the series was over, most of my teammates were asking me if I thought I would get to swing the bat again – ever,” Hill said. “I told them I was sure that this would be the only time this will happen all year.”

She said the closest she’s come to experiencing such treatment came during her freshman year against UTEP. The Miners walked Hill four straight times after watching the Southern Mississippi slugger hit for the cycle in the previous game.

 All Hill can do is root for her teammates and hope they make the decision to walk her backfire.

“We’ve won games where I didn’t get any hits,” Hill said. “When this was going on at the time against Central Florida, I was thinking, ‘Why are they doing this?’ Who is to say I wouldn’t strike out seven times or ground out eight times? It was kind of crazy.”

Hill, who has walked 37 times so far this season, is using the situation as a learning experience.

“You have to stay composed in a situation like that,” Hill said. “I was talking to one of our assistant coaches and she asked me about it because most people would get frustrated being walked 10 times in a row. I just kept the faith in the hitters behind me. It keeps me from being frustrated. I was pulling for my teammates.”

Sometimes breaking a record isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.