High School Profile: Need a base stolen? Call 'Wheels'

Zach Hillman can't decide which is more satisfying, reaching first base with a hit, or taking second with a steal.

Lourdes second baseball Zach Hillman fields a ball and throws to first against Kenyon-Wanamingo on Monday. The third-year starter is a spark batting lead-off, and a constant threat to steal a base.

Zach Hillman can't decide which is more satisfying, reaching first base with a hit, or taking second with a steal.

"I don't know," said the Rochester Lourdes baseball player, pondering the choice. "I try to do both."

For Hillman, a senior and third-year varsity player nicknamed "Wheels" by his teammates, reaching first and stealing second — or third, or even home — goes hand in hand.

With 45 steals in his first two varsity seasons, Lourdes' lead-off hitter and second baseman might just join the list of Minnesota high school baseball's all-time best base thieves before he is done.

"Getting a solid hit may be a bit more satisfying, because you have to get on base first, before you can steal," Hillman reasoned. "If I can get a hit, I can put myself in position to score and help my team."


Statistically, steals have come ridiculously easier for the 5-foot-10, 165-pound player. While Hillman's team-high .500 batting average for a 20-win Lourdes team last season was impressive enough, his stolen base percentage was 1.000: 30-for-30.

"It's something I always look for," said Hillman, who had 15 steals in his sophomore season. "If I see a pitcher with a slow release or a catcher with a weaker arm, I'm going to try to take advantage."

Lourdes head coach Dan Herold said that Hillman may not have sprinter's speed, but he covers the 90 feet between the bases as fast as anyone he has ever coached.

Hillman even executed a straight steal of home last season at Pine Island, after he had stolen second and third.

"His first step is pretty good; he gets out of the box pretty well," Herold said. "We have had some faster kids, but we haven't had anybody with his instincts on the bases.

"He has the green light (to steal when he chooses), and he's very good at it. He understands there are situations when you don't want to try to steal. I just trust him."

Another title run?

Hillman used his instincts to run away from tacklers on the football field last fall. He was the leading rusher with more than 1,000 yards for a Lourdes team that ran to the Class AAA state title and a 13-0 record.


"The state football title still hasn't set in completely yet," Hillman said. "Playing at TCF Stadium and winning that championship (35-14 against New London-Spicer) was an amazing experience."

An encore title run this spring is more than conceivable.

Hillman is one of 13 seniors on the Lourdes baseball team, and many of them are third-year players who led the Eagles to a 39-10 record and a pair of runner-up finishes in Section 1AA the past two seasons.

"The outside pressure is there," he said. "Doing it in baseball would be a whole new thing, and I think it would be just as sweet. We're going to try to get that done."

Hillman said he loves playing high school football and baseball equally. But baseball came more naturally to him and it's the sport he will likely pursue in college.

An exceptional student who will likely reap some academic awards, Hillman is leaning toward the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis where he'd enter medical field studies and likely play baseball.

"This year has flown by," he said. "It seems like yesterday we were getting ready for the football season, and now we're talking caps and gowns, and graduation is around the corner.

"It's a crazy time, but it's a happy time, I guess."

What To Read Next
Get Local