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Former Northwestern player breaks season hits record at USC Upstate

His first three years of playing college baseball, Blake Green's career moved along at a slow simmer. This year, he turned up the heat.

While that late success might not translate into a professional career, the former Northwestern High star has already gotten more baseball than he bargained for because of it.

Green shattered the USC Upstate record with 95 hits this season, a mark that seemed to surprise him most of all.

"Absolutely not," Green said with a laugh when asked if he expected such a total. "I was hoping for more like 60 or 65 hits, maybe hit .320 or something, but nothing like this."

Instead of such stats, as his past numbers would have indicated, he obliterated the Spartans record of 83 hits set by Brad Wingo in 2006, and kept going.

Green finished the season with a .399 batting average. That's why everyone was so surprised, because Green hadn't hit higher than .294 or collected more than 50 hits in a season.

"The more I think about it, that season just keeps getting better and better," Spartans coach Matt Fincher said. "Blake's just a kid who got better and better as his career went along. He struggled some early, and maybe wasn't as good offensively as we hoped he was going to be. But then his junior year he showed some real improvement, and this year was just off the charts.

"The most impressive thing was, it was as consistent a season as I've ever seen. There was never a week of nothingness."

Green, the Spartans' center fielder, went hitless in two of his first three games, and had a .265 average over his first eight games. But then things began to click in a major way. He hit .459 in the month of March, setting the stage for a season in which he wouldn't stop hitting. He broke the record with his 84th hit against Mercer on May 14, and capped his season by going 4-for-5 in the season finale at Campbell.

"It really didn't hit me until midseason that I had a chance of getting the record," Green said. "So at that point, I just said 'Go for it.' I wanted to make sure I was relaxed and having fun since this was my last season."

Green's realistic about his chances of playing more, despite the way he raked this year.

"I was praying to hear my name during the draft, but honestly, I didn't have the best four years of college," Green said. "It's not that big a deal though, because I went into it not expecting much."

He mentioned the possibility of some tryouts in the fall, but knows the demand for his services won't be high. At the same time, he has found himself in demand this summer.

"Yeah, I'm using my newfound credentials as a hitter," Green said with a laugh. "I'm giving kids hitting lessons."

It started with a few of the teenagers on his father's travel team asking for tips. Then it turned into full-bore tutoring, with money exchanging hands and everything.

"I'm like a kid again," Green said. "It gives me a chance to be around baseball and stay around baseball."

That kind of attitude is part of the reason Fincher's so proud of Green, knowing he'll be successful whether he makes another nickel from the game or not.

"Hey, I have guys I'll push to play whatever summer league they can to stay in the game," Fincher said. "But Blake's a special kid. He's just got this really even-keeled disposition, and that's partly why he had such a great season. He just quietly does his work day after day, and the consistency of his approach was what set him apart.

"That's why I'm not worried about him in life. He's an intelligent kid, he has a plan, and he has stuff to do."

In the short term, he has half a semester of college before he finishes his degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in business. He might see if there's a chance to play somewhere this fall, but if not, he's applying to culinary school with dreams of being a chef.

"I love to cook, and I love to eat what I cook," he said with a laugh. He talked about pasta dishes, and stuffed chicken, but you could really hear the passion in his voice when he talked about his prowess behind a grill.

"I just love getting out there on the grill," Green said. "Anything's better when it comes off that flame."

Just like his senior season, Green knows exactly when the turn the heat up.