Mason Hilty suited up in his Richland green-and-gold Thursday night and stepped out onto the grass and dirt of Bomber Field one last time.
Earlier in the day, the Richland senior who has pitched in a state championship game and two state semifinals was anticipating some big feelings, even for something as mundane as a feeder game for the annual All-State Series.
“One more time at Richland,” he said. “It means a lot. It’s been a great four years there. It’s great that I get one more game there being in uniform.”
That “one more game” came on the same day Hilty was named the Tri-City Herald All-Area baseball player of the year, joining his award as Mid-Columbia Conference co-player of the year along with Hanford junior outfielder Isaac Benard.
“Those are two big accomplishments,” said Hilty, who was an MCC first-team pick at shortstop and on the mound.
Hilty’s hitting numbers alone would land him on the first team — a .446 average with 25 RBIs — ranking fourth and second in the league — and nine doubles during the regular season. He hit .400 in three postseason games and was a steady hand at shortstop throughout.
He didn’t post the astounding pitching numbers that landed him on the all-area first team last year, going 4-1 with a 3.39 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
He added a pair of shutouts in the postseason before taking the loss in Richland’s season-ending 10-8 loss to Kentridge in the first round of state.
But more than the numbers, Hilty was a presence for the Bombers, coach Grant Richardson said.
“It changes the way you go about things,” Richardson said. “Mason is one of a kind. You would love to have one of those every class, but unfortunately it does not happen.”
Hilty hoped to finally nail down a state title after the Bombers finished second his freshman year and lost in the semifinals the next two seasons.
Though the title never materialized, he had no problem looking back with a sense of satisfaction.
“It was a good four years,” said Hilty, who is headed to the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. “I progressed, got better each year, and I didn’t hold anything back on the field.”
Just as in the MCC all-league voting, it was a close race between Hilty and Benard, who put up some astounding hitting numbers.
The Falcons junior won the league triple crown by a mile with a .541 batting average, nine home runs and 38 RBIs along with eight doubles.
To put his power numbers in perspective, everyone else not in a Hanford uniform (Falcons first baseman Cody Kowalski hit five homers) combined to hit 10 long balls.
All that while striking out just eight times in 93 plate appearances. His 25 walks are as much a credit to teams working around him as to his eye for the zone.
Hilty is joined on the first team by senior second baseman and teammate Nate Ruane.
But no one has a bigger presence than the Kennewick Lions, who placed five players on the first team and have the coach of the year in A.J. Marquardt.
Seniors Jarrod Molnaa (pitcher), Clayten Ayres (third base) and Dylan Wilbert (catcher) and junior outfielders JJ Hancock and Steven Sordahl landed on the first team after the Lions won the first Mid-Columbia Conference baseball title and placed third in state.
“One of the biggest things it meant to me was hard work and dedication to hard work in the game of baseball pays off in the long run,” said Marquardt, who called his kids “grinders” and “yard rats.”
Southridge seniors Grant Lathim at first base and Conner O’Neil at DH were named to the first team, along with Kamiakin junior pitcher David Marshall and Pasco junior Justus Scott as a utility player.
It is one of the most pitching-rich all-area teams, with Molnaa, Marshall, Hilty (listed at shortstop), Ayres and O’Neil coming off top-notch seasons.
Like Hilty, Hancock was on last year’s team, while Marshall and O’Neil were second-team picks last year.
MVP | Mason Hilty, Richland
Coach of the year | A.J. Marquardt, Kennewick
P | Jarrod Molnaa, sr., Kennewick
P | David Marshall, jr., Kamiakin
C | Dylan Wilbert, sr., Kennewick
1B | Grant Lathim, sr., Southridge
2B | Nate Ruane, sr., Richland
3B | Clayten Ayres, sr., Kennewick
SS | Mason Hilty, sr., Richland
OF | Isaac Benard, jr., Hanford
OF | JJ Hancock, jr., Kennewick
OF | Steven Sordahl, jr., Kennewick
Util | Justus Scott, jr., Pasco
DH | Conner O’Neil, sr., Southridge
P | Jalen DeVine, sr., Hanford
P | Adam Mathews, jr., Walla Walla
P | Jake Ebberts, sr., Southridge
C | Tyler Kjarmo, jr., Richland
1B | Cody Kowalski, sr., Hanford
2B | Larry DeWitt, jr., Kennewick
3B | Connor Morfin, jr., Southridge
SS | Vince Gonzalez, sr., Kennewick
OF | Kaden Julian, sr., Kennewick
OF | Addison Spivey, sr., Southridge
OF | Luis Murillo, sr., Pasco
Util | Jesse Briones, jr., Chiawana
DH | Austin Taylor, sr., Hanford
Best of the rest
P | Jacob Anderson, so., Hanford
C | Aaron Enderlin, jr., Hanford
1B | Gibson McGeorge, jr., Richland
1B | Michael Martinez, sr., Stanfield
2B | Cole Henderson, sr., Southridge
3B | Anthony Pocaro, jr., Hanford
SS | Jared Newbry, sr., Southridge
SS | Brennan Sutey, sr., Hanford
IF | Kyle Killian, sr., Prosser
IF | Roger Ingram Jr., jr., Pasco
OF | Spencer Bennion, jr., Chiawana
OF | Nychal Gritz, so., Hermiston
OF | Garrett March, jr., Richland
DH | Camran Pollick, jr., Hermiston
DH | Brenden Holst, jr., Connell