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Indians' Hutchison inks baseball letter

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior Hayden Hutchison loves baseball.

It's his only sport, and Hutchison has invested much of his life playing the game.

Now, he has the opportunity to fulfill a dream: competing at the next level.

Hutchison signed to play for Neosho County Community College -- an NJCAA Division I school in Chanute. He had his signing ceremony Tuesday in the HHS cafeteria.

"When I went on my visit, I couldn't really think of anything I didn't like about (NCCC)," said Hutchison, who said he initially is planning to major in psychology. "It felt like a good fit. When you know, you know, I guess."

Hutchison, who has predominately played as a pitcher, third baseman and shortstop in his time at Hays High, said he was recruited as a first baseman, but he said he will take some repetitions at third base to see what is the best fit.

Hutchison has played first base in the past, but it could take some getting used to.

"When I project Hayden, that's probably a good projection for him," said Hays High head coach Frank Leo.

However, Leo said Hutchison will discover first base is more complex than it might appear.

"He'll have to learn a little bit," Leo said. "You've got to remember to cover first base on a ground ball. He can't be a spectator when he's over there. ... That's going to take some repetitions. There's a lot going on at first base that people don't really realize."

Hutchison has been a huge contributor for Hays High and his summer American Legion team, the Hays Eagles.

Last spring at Hays High, Hutchison earned Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors after hitting 0.456, belting a team-high 16 doubles and posting 24 RBIs and 22 runs scored in 23 games. On the mound, Hutchison was 6-1 with a 3.12 earned-run average.

He helped the Indians finish 20-3, go undefeated in WAC play and earn a trip to the Class 5A state tournament.

This summer with the Eagles, Hutchison was a significant contributor to a 46-10 team that won the city its first Legion state championship in 31 years and earned a trip to the Mid-South Regional Tournament in New Orleans where the Eagles went 1-2.

Hutchison hit .374 with the Eagles and tied for the team high with eight home runs. He led the squad with a.639 slugging percentage and .543 on-base percentage. He finished 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA as a pitcher.

"We don't want to want to talk about missing him yet, because we've got a spring where he's going to be a big horse for us," Leo said. "He's been a tremendous player for us. He's good on the mound. He's very poised. He understands the game. He knows how to control the game and knows how to control his emotions. That's very important."

Hutchison will join a squad that has had some success of its own. The Panthers finished 49-16 last season and qualified for the juco World Series.

He will play for 27th-year NCCC head coach Steve Murry, a Fort Hays State University alumnus.

"Definitely the coaches," Hutchison said regarding what convinced him to go to NCCC the most. "Probably the most important part was how they carry themselves and how they run the program."

Hutchison had to battle to get to this point, spending countless hours playing the game, but he also had to overcome adversity.

Hutchison dealt with a knee problems early in his high school career. He had a tilted kneecap that resulted in cartilage damage. He had to have surgery, and he wasn't fully healthy and prepared to play baseball until last season at Hays High.

"Hayden has put in the work," Leo said. "This was a goal of his when he started high school. He wanted to play at the next level. You can say you want to do that, but Hayden has put in the time, he's put in the work, he's overcome some injuries. He's accomplished at least his first goal. He wants to get to a junior college, and hopefully, he'll do well there and move on."