Baseball Player of the Year: Century's Hibbs hustled all the way to a state title

Pat Stoetzer
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Nathanael Hibbs grew up in northern New Jersey and started playing organized baseball when he was in the first grade.

When his family moved to Carroll County five years later, Hibbs wanted to keep playing. And at a higher level, so Hibbs could be around more people who shared the same enthusiasm for the game. Travel ball made sense, and Hibbs had his sights set on playing for the Maryland Cardinals.

The first obstacle was finding a spot on the team.

“When he came down from New Jersey, his mom actually called me because they were trying to find a real good, quality team,” said Mike Marrale, the Cardinals’ coach at the time. “I had already picked my team, so I did not have a spot for him. But a month later his brother calls me. He goes, ‘Coach Marrale, he just loves this game. He really wants to be part of this.’ At the time, I actually had a kid, something happened where he left a spot on the roster, and I picked him up.

“And that’s where it all started.”

Hibbs displayed his up-tempo, energetic style of play for the Cards before getting to high school and playing for Century’s varsity team, coached by Marrale. Hibbs never stopped playing hard, Marrale said, and this spring the senior led the Knights to new heights en route to earning Times Player of the Year honors.

Century won 20 games, claimed its second Carroll County Athletic League title in as many seasons, and took the program’s first regional and state championships.

The Knights (20-3) let loose in the Class 2A West playoffs, scoring 55 runs in three games. They blanked Hereford 9-0 in the state semifinals before taking down La Plata 4-1 on May 26 at Ripken Stadium.

Marrale stuck Hibbs at shortstop as soon as he could, envisioning a player who knew only one speed as the backbone of his defense. Hibbs said it took a little time to adjust to a faster-paced game, going from recreational to travel leagues and then varsity. But when things clicked, they stayed in place.

“I just kind of always played hard, as hard as I could,” Hibbs said. “I always want to do whatever I can do to win the game. I always played hard and tried to give it all I had. … I’ve always been very competitive, and I’ve always felt like winning with the team was the most important thing.”

He emerged last spring as a first-team all-county infielder and helped Century win a Carroll County Athletic League title, but when the Knights fell in the regional playoffs Hibbs said they felt a sense of unfulfillment.

“Last year, we definitely thought that we could have gone all the way like this year,” Hibbs said. “Losing that early in the playoffs really lit a fire under us for this year. We just wanted to prove that we were a better team than we showed in years past. I think we did that this year.”

Hibbs piled up stats in 2018 — he batted .493 and had 34 hits, the most of any public-school player in Carroll; he led the county in doubles with 12; he smacked 10 home runs, tying teammate Ethan Kiple for the most in Carroll; and totaled 38 RBIs, second in the county to Kiple’s 42.

Hibbs let his play stand as his leadership qualities, and Marrale appreciated it.

“He was our Pete Rose,” Marrale said. “He was the ‘Charlie Hustle’ of our team, and I would take 11 of him any day to make up a team. He was the first on the field at practice, first on the field to a game. He hardly said anything. He was a very quiet leader.”

Marrale said the team began its offseason weightlifting regimen last September and Hibbs attended every session. Hibbs pushed himself and put up the most weight, Marrale said, which helped show his teammates where they had to be physically.

“He was our main leader of that team even though I’ve never … elected a captain for the team,” Marrale said. “I didn’t have to, and he was exactly part of the reason why I didn’t have to.”

Hibbs’ baseball journey is set to continue at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he’s headed in the fall. Hibbs said he’s ready to start over, be a freshman again, and make a name for himself in a new environment.

The Tritons can expect a “Charlie Hustle” of their own, a player who feels satisfied with how his senior year played out.

“I’m extremely happy,” Hibbs said. “Our team has just played together these whole four years. We’ve had a great coaching staff. And we’ve all been on the same page. Every day, working hard trying to get better each and every day. And it ended up working out for us in the end.”


All-County Baseball

FIRST TEAM

Position Name School Year

Pitcher Reece Early Gerstell Junior

Pitcher Jeremy Lapp Century Senior

Pitcher Jonathan Money South Carroll Senior

Pitcher Dylan Waltemeyer Winters Mill Senior

Catcher Michael Marrale Century Senior

Infield Ethan Kiple Century Senior

Infield Nathanael Hibbs Century Senior

Infield Jared Lamb Century Senior

Infield Billy Scanlon Westminster Senior

Outfield Alex Barnes Winters Mill Junior

Outfield Ryan Clatterbuck Westminster Junior

Outfield Max Friedman Gerstell Junior

Outfield Nicholas Henneman Westminster Senior

Outfield Josh Kaye South Carroll Senior

Outfield Caleb Ludwig Manchester Valley Junior

Outfield Matthew Myers Manchester Valley Sophomore

SECOND TEAM

Century: Dylan Breitenbach, Matt Born, Tyler Roach. Francis Scott Key: Jarrett Hise. Gerstell: Matt Nowakowski, Matthew Szedlock. Liberty: Trevor Smoot. Man Valley: Dalton Groupp. Kyle Scott. South Carroll: Dan McGuire. Westminster: Nathan Barber, Aaron Golberg. Winters Mill: Deion Blackburn, Grant Bradt, Connor Peters.


pat.stoetzer@carrollcountytimes.com

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