Chasing the dream

Hiscock leads Rail Cats from the mound

Naugatuck native Stephen Hiscock leads the Gary South Shore Rail Cats of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball on the mound with an 8-4 record in 17 starts with 82 strikeouts. -TRACI O’DONNELL

Naugatuck native Stephen Hiscock leads the Gary South Shore Rail Cats of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball on the mound with an 8-4 record in 17 starts with 82 strikeouts. -TRACI O’DONNELL

The Gary South Shore Rail Cats of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball are bearing down on another exciting pennant run. The 2013 defending league champions are in first place in the Central Division and are led by Naugatuck’s own Stephen Hiscock.

The Naugatuck High School graduate began chasing the dream of professional baseball when he signed a non-drafted free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.

Hiscock went 7-2 with a 3.67 ERA at Rollins College in Winter Haven, Fla. during his senior year. After college, he pitched for the Hudson Valley team in the New York-Penn League for Tampa Bay, compiling a 3-3 record and a stingy 2.95 ERA out of the bullpen, striking out 38 batters in 36 innings.

In 2011 Hiscock was promoted to the Single-A Midwest League. During his time with Bowling Green he went 1-2 in 40 games striking out 61 in 66 innings on the hill.

In April of 2012, following his release by Tampa Bay, Hiscock signed on with the Rail Cats.

He worked his way into the staring pitching rotation and in five years of professional baseball Hiscock owns a 22-17 record with a tidy 3.76 ERA. In his first year in Gary, Ind. he led the team with a 3.22 ERA and tied for wins going 6-6. He was second on the team in innings pitched at 125 and second in strikeouts at 69. In 14 of the 19 starts he gave up three runs or less.

“You set goals before the season starts and you work toward accomplishing those goals,” Hiscock said. “My first year here we struggled a bit finishing around .500, but we had a young team and we started to come together by the end of the season.

“I had a different role than what I was used to, but became part of the rotation. Last year we just clicked. We got the hitting we were lacking the year before and our rotation became solid.”

Hiscock got off to a slow start last year as he recovered from a broken hand in the offseason. But, he still played a vital role heading down the stretch of the pennant drive. He finished 4-2 on the season with a 3.26 ERA, striking out 50 batters in 69 innings. In the playoffs he pitched 12 innings and earned a win.

“That was so much fun,” Hiscock said. “The excitement of it all was just intense. Fans will come out to support a winning team and last weekend we drew over 6,000 for one of our games.”

Being the hunted has made this season just as exciting, Hiscock said.

“Being the defending champions, teams are coming after us every game and we are in a fight, which makes it exciting. I spent the offseason working out and preparing for a larger role this year as a veteran pitcher,” he said.

As for possibly catching the eye of a major league scout again, Hiscock isn’t too concerned.

“All of that is behind the scenes between management and I don’t get overly concerned about it,” he said. “I just go out there and do my job the best I can trying to lead the team to another win.”

This season Hiscock has been quite proficient in that area. He leads the team with an 8-4 record in 17 starts with two complete games and a shutout. He’s also the team leader with 82 strikeouts in 109 innings as the Rail Cats (41-32) had a four-game lead in the division on Tuesday.

“I focus on taking care of what I can control and that is my pitching,” Hiscock said. “I had the hand injury a year ago and suffered some fatigue in my shoulder but this season is the healthiest I’ve been and I’m so looking forward to the excitement of another pennant race.”

At 26 years old the Naugatuck right-hander is still chasing the dream.

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