Hillside may have the ingredients for its best baseball team in a very long time.
Thanks to a three-game win streak earlier this season that included two blowout wins over archrival Southern Durham and a comeback from a six-run deficit to nip Jordan-Matthews in extra innings, the Hornets stand at 4-4 overall – which matches its best season in the last decade.
On Tuesday, the Hornets nearly won in league play for the first time since 2013 with a 5-4 loss to Riverside.
“We’re still a work in progress,” said Hornets coach Malcoum Green, whose team will move to the Big 8 3A next season. “But I like the direction we’re going. The boys are buying into our techniques, and they’re getting better every day. ... That Jordan-Matthews team was a test of their heart and character and they showed a lot of both. We know in conference games we’ve got to make pitches, play defense and keep battling from beginning to end.”
LeChauncey Lyons is hoping to improve on last season when he was named the conference’s utility player of the year. He played defensive end and nose guard for the Hornets’ football team.
“The first thing I have to do as a captain is be a good team player,” said Lyons, who has committed to Prince George’s (Md.) Community College. “I didn’t think I would be any good at baseball until about eighth grade, but it’s my main sport now. I just have to keep playing hard and set a good example for the younger guys on the team.”
Josephus Shabazz made his first career start in the Hornets’ second meeting with Southern Durham and handled it well.
“My fastball, changeup and curve have been working well for me,” said Shabazz, who was primarily a catcher last season. “I’m working on a cutter right now.”
Shabazz grew up playing in the Durham Bulls’ youth league and spent some time in the South Durham Little League before playing in the Long Ball organization.
“We just have to be as good as we can be,” said Shabazz, who plays several brass instruments in the Hornets’ band. “The PAC-6 is really good with teams like Jordan and Cardinal Gibbons, but we just have to have confidence in ourselves.”
Green said he has confidence in his players’ abilities. Now to have some success in the PAC-6 they have to do things the right way consistently as a team.
“We have a lot of ingredients to make a good cake,” said Green, a coaching veteran of over 20 years who is a former corner infielder at Elizabeth City State. “We’ve been starting two sophomores and a freshman and we’re trying to develop them as quickly as we can. We’ve got a JV program now and that’s helping a lot.”
He continued: “We’ve got a lot of good athletes, but we’re still teaching some basic baseball. They just need to keep enhancing their skills and work on things every day.”