Darius Hill Heads ‘Psychos’ In WVU Outfield
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–He might-be the most mild-mannered and even-keeled player on the team — at least to outward appearances.
Senior rightfielder Darius Hill is calm and composed in most situations, whether it is while patrolling the outfield, rounding the bases or dealing with the media. Behind that, though, is his membership in an outfield group known as “The Psychos” – a self-administered description that calls out their dedication to doing anything possible to win.
“That’s something we take pride in. We call ourselves ‘The Psychos’,” Hill said when discussing the defensive ability and work ethic of the group. “It’s something we kind of all came up with, along with (assistant coach Steve) Sabins. We do a lot out there; we practice really hard and hope that translates to being able to take away some runs and give ourselves more chances to win.”
The group will be down one member this year, as jack-of-all-trades Braden Zarbnisky will miss the season with an injury. However, Hill, along with centerfielder Brandon White and expected left field replacement T.J. Lake will try to fill some of the gaps that Zarbnisky’s absence leaves – with one of those being more literal than others.
That item is speed, and it’s something that Hill worked on to improve in the offseason.
“I wanted to work on transforming my body, adding some speed so I could do more things around the field. I think I was able to do that,” the Dallas, Texas native observed.
Improving there, and playing alongside the speedy White in center field, could help cut down a few hits that might have been gap balls in previous seasons. That, in turn, prevents runs, and can provide a big boost to the pitching staff.
Hills contributions across the board were many in 2018, earning him postseason honors as well as a spot on the preseason All-Big 12 team. He hit .329 a year ago with 20 doubles, two triples and four home runs, totaling 115 bases. He struck out just 20 times in 252 plate appearances and scored 41 runs. Those sorts of numbers, along with veteran status, makes him a natural for a leadership role, but he sees it as a group effort.
“It’s not pressure. It’s stepping into a role,” he said of being a voice to which others respond. “We have a lot of older guys here who have seen the ropes. and having an older group that will know what to do in different situations.”
The Mountaineers will lean on that leadership as they begin their season with the typical southern road swing in search of good weather. They’ll play six games in Georgia over the first two weekends of the season, beginning on Feb. 15, followed by a cross-country trip to face defending national champion Oregon State March 1-3. Uneven starts in such out of conference trips in the past have put a dent in West Virginia’s postseason hopes, but Hill is fully aware of the importance of hitting the ground running.
“We know what we are up against each year, having to start the season on the road,” he said of West Virginia’s early schedule, which features 14 of its first 17 games away from home. “We have another tough slate this year. We know how important those games are. It’s paramount that we win a good amount of those games.
“It’s challenging for sure, but we like seeing other places, and beating someone on their field is something you take pride in. You don’t get to play on your field, and you don’t get to hear people cheer when you do something good.”