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On the Hill: Blue Devil pitcher can be tough to handle
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    Tony Hill has come a long way — and he still has a long way to go.
    Statesboro’s right-handed ace is a force to be reckoned with, not only on the mound but also at the plate and in the field.
    His progress since joining the Blue Devils as a sophomore is impressive, but his coaches and teammates know the best may be yet to come at the next level.
    “The God-given ability is there,” said Statesboro pitching coach Jim Simmons. “The big thing is going to be the ability to repeat what he does — what he has the ability to do naturally, being able to repeat it over and over and over again. Every athlete is going to have peaks and valleys, but they’re going to have to be just bumps in the road at the next level.”
    Hill learned all about the highs and lows of sports early in his athletic career. He made the varsity football squad as a freshman across the county at Southeast Bulloch. But that following spring, Hill broke his arm and was worried his football days were over.
    After transferring to SHS, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Hill decided to focus solely on baseball. Devil fans are certainly glad he did.
    “I came here my 10th grade year and wasn’t that polished of a baseball player,” said Hill. “I’ve made big steps since then — especially on the mound with my mechanics. There’s still a lot of room for improvement (too).”
    Hill throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball, along with a curve ball and slider. He’s topped out at 94 mph and comes at hitters from two different arm angles. He’s allowed just seven earned runs in 18 innings of work this season. Some may say Hill is ‘effectively wild’ on the mound, having walked 21 batters but allowing just 12 hits.
    “He throws it pretty hard,” said catcher Scott Sarratt. “He can hit his spots when he wants too — but when he’s off he’s pretty tough to catch. When his stuff is working, though, he’s pretty much unhittable.”
    Hill comes from an athletic bloodline as well. His father played ball in high school and his cousin, Bacarri Rambo, committed to play football at the University of Georgia this past winter. Off the mound, he’s a self-proclaimed party guy — except on the days that he pitches.
    “I don’t talk to anybody,” he said. “I just want to stay in my zone and listen to my music. I just try to get in my zone where nobody can beat me and when I get on the mound I’m just invincable.”
    The senior also plays left field and hits fifth in the lineup. He’s already committed to pitch and play the outfield next year for Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Don’t be surprised if a professional ball club comes asking for his services before then.
    “I’ve had some guys come out and check out my game this year,” he said. “But I’m mostly just trying to pitch my game and help my team win. Everything else will fall into place if I just stay with that.”
    Hill will get the start tonight at Lakeside in a crucial Region 3-AAAA contest. SHS has won two straight and scored double digits in each game.
    “I think we’re going to win out,” he said. “We’ve been playing very well. If we just stay in our game and focus on defense — the hits will come, I’m not worried about that at all — so if we just stay on our game defensively we’re going to be very tough to beat.”

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.