PINCKNEYVILLE – Pinckneyville High School senior Hayden Hicks will be suiting up for the Rend Lake College Warriors baseball team next season after signing his national letter of intent Tuesday at the high school.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I think [RLC] coach [Tony] Etnier is great and I think it is a strong recruiting class for Rend Lake.”
Hicks – a 6-1, 180 pound first baseman for the Panthers – will be somewhat following in the footsteps of his older brother, Haven, who walked on as a Warrior and played two years before transferring to the University of Illinois.
“I used to watch him play there,” Hicks said. “I really enjoyed that and I think it was a big part of my decision. I’m just really excited to go.”
He earned the Panthers’ Silver Slugger Award as a member of a team that went 34-7 and took second place at the state championships last year. The honor was based on batting average, RBIs, and slugging percentage. He was also named to the All Conference and All South teams as a first baseman while hitting cleanup for the Panthers. PCHS baseball coach Alan Engelhardt said that was even more of an accomplishment for a kid who grew up playing outfield.
Engelhardt added that Hicks is a dedicated player who works hard to get extra bases and the little things that sometimes can mean the difference in a ball game.
“He is just a baseball player,” he said. “He’ll do anything you ask him to.”
Hicks’ father, Kevin, said he is “tickled to death” that Hayden will be playing close to home. He added that the level of competitiveness in the conference schedule and the quality players in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference are also what attracts him to the Warriors program.
“I’ll be able to go watch him play and that means everything to me,” he said.
“I want him to stay close to home, but I want to see him play,” Hicks’ mother, Rhonda, added. “I know that we will be able to get to his games since he is going to Rend Lake. I want him to be a contributor.”
Hicks has amassed about 30 college credit hours by taking dual credit courses through RLC while at PCHS. He said he should be able to graduate after about three semesters at RLC but did not know if his intentions are to transfer or stay on for a complete two years. He possibly has one more summer of eligibility in the American Legion where he has played every year.
Hicks joins other Southern Illinois players who have signed with the Warriors in January. They include Kendall Toliver (Carbondale), Matt Caraway (Carterville) and Zach Elliott (Vienna).