Since Hillgrove began its baseball program in 2006, it has always been about consistency.
Though the process is far from complete, Dave Richardson, the Hawks' coach from the beginning, said he has enjoyed the steady progression.
“I was fortunate to be hired by Hillgrove 13 years ago,” he said. “Those young men helped build a program, and I am forever indebted to them.”
The first season in the spring of 2007, Richardson coached a roster of mainly freshmen and sophomores. The young Hawks finished the season 5-21.
This season, 13 seniors led Hillgrove to a 32-10 record and the program's second appearance in the state finals.
For his effort, Richardson is the 2019 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Baseball Coach of the Year
Throughout the season, Richardson said the focus was to apply constant pressure on their opponents.
“If you play better competition, you’ll be an overall better team,” he said. “We wanted to host games in the postseason. We play about 11 to 13 non-region games, so we knew that those matchups would really prepare us for those tough region teams.”
Richardson understood how important a No. 1 seed for the playoffs was to the program. The Hawks secured it, going 12-3 in Region 3AAAAAAA play.
Richardson said the success was because of the players effort.
“My staff and I make sure that the team is prepared,” he said. “At the end of the day, they are one ones that go out and perform. Last season had everything to do with them expanding their games and working together as a unit.”
One of those players was pitcher and center fielder Deion Walker, who broke the single-season team records for wins and RBIs.
Walker said Richardson is a father figure to all the players.
“He is honestly like my second father,” Walker said. “He represents our entire program at Hillgrove. Everything he does is worth it. He stays on you, he pushes you. He sees what’s best for his players and treats them like they’re his sons.
Walker came from the Hillgrove eighth-grade team, where the majority of the varsity players got their start. Richardson said Walker is one of the most mentally tough players he has ever coached.
“When he did his job, it helped the entire team,” he said. “Nothing rattles him. I have coached lots of players at Hillgrove, but he is definitely up there as a mentally tough young man.”
Richardson said Hillgrove's two-game championship sweep at the hands of Parkview at SunTrust Park was devastating, until he looked into the crowd.
“There were about 6,000 to 8,000 people at the state final,” he said. “We didn’t seal the deal, but looking up into the seats and seeing so many students, people from the community and family members just showed that this game is much bigger than baseball. We have a lot of supporters for our team.”