Hilligoss Looking For Better Second-Half

Mitch Hilligoss is hitting .360 so far in June

After hitting .310 with the Charleston Riverdogs and setting a South Atlantic League record with a 38-game hit streak last season, a lot was expected of Mitch Hilligoss this year. He struggled to get his average up to .250 by the All-Star break this season, however, and now he's hoping to have a much better second-half with the Tampa Yankees.

"It's been a combination of things," Mitch Hilligoss said of his struggles so far. "I never found the swing, I'm uncomfortable probably, I'm jumpy - it seems like it's always something different everyday.

"We're only [roughly] two months in, I guess that's the good part, but at the same time it's a little longer struggle than you'd want."

He hit just .247 in the first month this season and followed it up with easily his worst showing as a professional, hitting just .202 in the month of May before seeing his average dip down all the way to .216 by June 1st.

"My approach hasn't changed at all I don't think," he opined. "I just haven't been consistent. Either call it better pitching, me just not being very good, or whatever. Hopefully I can get it turned around."

Known for his great contact hitting ability, he entered the season with the goals of drawing more walks and improving his power. Ironically, while he appeared to make steps towards achieving those goals in Spring Training, his always consistent bat abandoned him in the Florida State League.

"I was kind of spinning early on, spinning off balls, but I don't think that's the main cause," said Hilligoss. "I just haven't been staying on the outside pitches well.

"Like I said, it's been a combination of things - from swinging at bad pitches to get myself out to not driving the ball. I don't think I've driven the ball very well. Obviously you can tell that from the number of doubles and that kind of thing."

Hitting rock-bottom by the end of May, Hilligoss finally began turning things around right before the Florida State League All-Star break by hitting safely in nine of his last ten games, including seven multi-hit games, to give him a .360 average in June thus far.

"I'm trying to use my legs more and let the ball travel more, that's a big thing for me," he said. "Sometimes I get too jumpy. I'll see the ball pretty well and then I think I can go get everything. I just need to let the ball travel more and hopefully I can turn it around."

His manager, Luis Sojo, thinks some of his first-half struggles are a product of not pulling the inside pitches enough, perhaps still trying to go the opposite way too much.

"Yes and no," said Hilligoss. "I've had good days at it. Earlier in the year we had a talk, a sit-down, a goal set for what I was going to chase, what I wouldn't chase, and I've been better since that point. The first 25 games I wasn't very good at all.

"Going into the season I said power and on-base percentage were two things I wanted to work on, and neither one of them have been good. It's just the way it's been so far, but hopefully as bad as I've been, maybe these next couple of months will be that much better."

As bad as he struggled with the one constant in his game throughout his baseball life - his bat - the former Purdue University shortstop has been relatively even-keeled mentally and he believes his struggles will be a thing of the past when it's all said and done by season's end.

"There's always worry but I still think I can hit and I think I can hit at this level, and be a good hitter," he said emphatically. "It does seem right now when I have hit the ball hard it's been right at somebody too so maybe it's just one of those funks.

"Maybe I need to work harder, maybe this is telling me something. I don't know but we'll find out."

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