Freshman infielder Luke Hill has excelled early in his collegiate career as ASU’s starting shortstop. Hill has provided a solid bat in the Sun Devils’ lineup while battling the challenges of adapting to college baseball.
In high school, Hill was a highly sought-after recruit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as he was ranked the second-best shortstop in his state. Despite receiving an offer from LSU, Hill committed to ASU after a visit with fellow shortstop and Sun Devils’ head coach Willie Bloomquist, who told Hill he would have a chance to earn a starting position.
Right off the bat, Hill hit the ground running in Tempe and started 40 of the Sun Devils’ 41 games this season. Bloomquist has put his trust in Hill and freshman infielder Nu’u Contrades to patrol the left side of the infield since day one. While he found his position stressful at first, Hill said he’s now confident playing alongside Contrades each game.
"We're kind of going through the same exact thing," Hill said. "We're hitting almost the exact same, we're playing on the same side and we're roommates. So it's been helpful to have him right there."
Just across second, junior infielder Luke Keaschall has served as an on-field mentor for Hill. Early in the season, Hill thought that Keaschall was too hard on him, but soon realized that he wanted nothing but the best for him. Hill said Keaschall has helped him in nearly every aspect of his play, adding that he wouldn’t be where he is today without him.
While his fellow infielders slug at the plate, Hill has found a consistent role as Bloomquist’s two-hole hitter after batting in the latter half of the lineup for most of the season. As he steps to the plate, Hill struts to the diamond with swagger as his walkup song, P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent, booms throughout Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Reinforcing his confidence, Hill has recorded a .359 batting average while knocking in 10 runs in his last 10 games.
Hill said his success is due in part to Bloomquist’s advice to attack pitchers early and swing at balls over the plate. Bloomquist’s advice appears to be paying off as Hill has racked up 52 hits this season while also recording 21 walks.
In his best outing, Hill lifted ASU past Grand Canyon University with a three-run home run and a two-RBI single in the eighth inning. In ASU’s latest Pac-12 series, Hill built on his hot streak at the plate and recorded five RBIs in three games against then-No. 21 Oregon State.
While his bat has been hot, Hill has recently struggled with fielding and committed errors in bunches. Currently, Hill has registered a .934 fielding percentage and a team-high 11 errors, five of which came in a four-game stretch. In ASU’s game against Oregon State on April 22, Hill committed three of the team’s five errors, one of which led to three unearned runs.
After the game, Bloomquist acknowledged that Hill is still a freshman learning the ropes of collegiate baseball. Bloomquist said it’s natural for a young player to make mistakes, and that mental lapses can happen to anyone. He also commended Hill’s ability to put his errors behind him and hit a two-run single later in the game.
"Baseball is a contagious game," Bloomquist said. "Hitting, defense, offense and pitching, it all seems to kind of snowball together. Again we’re talking specifically about a young man who has played a pretty good shortstop so far all year long and had a tough day."
Reflecting on his tough night, Hill said he doesn’t care that he committed errors but is disappointed that he let his teammates down. Nevertheless, Hill’s teammates took his side and continued to encourage him at every chance.
"I don't know the numbers, but I can't imagine there are many freshmen in a power five conference starting at shortstop," sophomore infielder Jacob Tobias said. "He has to realize he's really good and just keep trusting his abilities."
Less than a day later, Hill was able to clean up his fielding skills and posted a 1.000 fielding percentage. Hill’s fielding may have improved due to Bloomquist’s plan to rehash fundamental defensive skills with his infielders before ASU’s game on April 23. Bloomquist told his infielders to keep their feet moving during routine plays and remember that they can always rebound from a tough outing.
As the regular season winds to a close, Hill plans to build on what he’s learned in his short college career to give his all in postseason play. He said he doesn’t have any personal goals and simply wants to lift a trophy in Tempe, something Sun Devil baseball hasn’t done in more than a decade.
Yet, nothing illustrates Hill’s determination more than his signature tattoo. Hill’s forearm has a small patch of ink that spells out "perspective" with letters oriented in four directions. Hill said his father always told him that if he focused on his goals, everything would work itself out.
"It doesn’t matter how everyone else sees you," Hill said. "You know the true meaning of yourself."
Edited by Kathryn Field, Jasmine Kabiri and Grace Copperthite.