April 7, 2010 9:47:00 AM
In his first season on the East Mississippi Community College baseball team, Hilton Gibson ranks among the team leaders in hitting and power production.
The freshman first baseman is third with a .376 batting average to go with two home runs and 20 RBIs.
But the production at the plate isn''t Gibson''s greatest contribution to the Lions, according to EMCC coach Tony Montgomery.
Gibson, a 2009 graduate of New Hope High School, established himself as a leader upon arriving in Scooba and Montgomery says that''s his best attribute.
"From Day 1 that he got here he has pretty much been our leader," Montgomery said. "Even though he came here as a freshman, from the first day we stepped on the field, it wasn''t just the coaches that realized it, the players did too."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Gibson has been instrumental in helping EMCC to an 18-14 record, which is seven more wins than a season ago.
Being a leader on the team is a role that Gibson relishes.
He was accustomed to winning at New Hope and he has a driven desire to win at EMCC.
"I''m just working hard," Gibson said. "I''m trying to work hard. I''m not doing it for myself. I''m doing it for the team.
"(I want) to be a leader on the field and off the field."
Montgomery said it''s Gibson''s no-nonsense demeanor that has made him a leader on the team.
"Real early in the year when guys wanted to goof off when coaches weren''t looking or had their backs turned, (Gibson) was the guy that spoke out and said, ''Hey, we''re working here today, we don''t have time for that.'' I''m telling you, for the first time ever, and I''ve been here 12 years (as a player, assistant and head coach), that I''ve seen a freshman do that.
"You could have two or three other guys on the team say the exact same thing and nobody responds, but when Hilton says it you can bet your butt (people listen)."
Gibson connected for his first collegiate homer against Arkansas Baptist on Feb. 19 and he hit his second against Northeast Mississippi Community College on March 20.
Gibson is one of the reasons why the Lions are much better than last season when they were 11-37.
"We''re going out and taking it game by game," Gibson said. "We have one goal and that''s to reach the playoffs.
"We have a lot of talent. Everyone on the team has stepped up and is playing real hard. We''re just coming together as a team."
In addition to his leadership and hitting, Gibson contributes with his glove, according to Montgomery.
"He''s just steady (at first base)," Montgomery said. "he''s got a very strong arm. When the ball is hit to him it doesn''t matter if it hits him in the arms or the chest or the chin, he dropping down and he''s going to keep it in front of him. It has to bounce over his head or to his left or to his right to get by him. He''s not going to take chances. He''s going to make sure the ball stays in front of him. He fields it and gets an out."
Gibson would like to continue playing baseball after EMCC and his favorite place to play would be the University of Alabama. He says he''s a die-hard Alabama fan.
EMCC plays a doubleheader against Coahoma Community College in Scooba at 3 p.m. Saturday and will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak.