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Bucs hip to Hibbing, draft righty for 2nd time

Pitcher who committed to Iowa after being selected in 2011 now more mature, polished

PITTSBURGH -- In the 42nd round of the 2011 Draft, a round that no longer exists, the Pirates used their first pick -- No. 1,262 overall -- to select Nick Hibbing, a right-hander out of Lakes Community High School in Antioch, Ill.

The two sides talked but didn't come to an agreement, and Hibbing headed to the University of Iowa. Four years later, the Pirates came calling again.

Pittsburgh selected Hibbing, now a 22-year-old reliever coming off an excellent senior season with the Hawkeyes, in the 16th round on Wednesday.

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"I just wanted to play for a team that wanted to have me," Hibbing said Wednesday afternoon. "They showed interest in high school, and I was really excited to play for them.

"Now they're giving me another chance. I'm mature enough, my body's ready, arm's ready, and I'm ready to give the Pirates everything I've got."

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The 6-foot-6 righty went 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .168 average in 25 appearances for Iowa this spring. It was a giant step forward for Hibbing, who struggled at times with his delivery and control the previous three seasons.

So Hibbing worked tirelessly with Iowa pitching coach Scott Brickman, improving his approach and cleaning up his mechanics. He learned how to work in the weight room and how to improve the mental side of his game.

It wasn't an overnight change, but this year, Hibbing found that his fastball velocity ticked up, his breaking balls were dangerous pitches, and his confidence soared.

The difference in command was particularly noticeable, as he struck out 47 batters and walked only five in 51 2/3 innings this season.

And Hibbing saved his best for last. On May 31, his final day as a college pitcher, he threw 8 2/3 straight no-hit innings over two NCAA Regional games.

He entered the first game, against Oregon, with the bases loaded, nobody out and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth. His coach told him to strike out the first batter and induce a double play from the second. He did.

"Wow," Brickman said. "We're watching some history right now."

He went on to toss three hitless innings overall in that extra-innings game to earn the win. He then threw 5 2/3 hitless relief innings in the second game before allowing his first knock on his final batter, but Iowa lost. When he finally walked off the mound, the pro-Missouri State crowd offered him a standing ovation. He was named the regional's Most Outstanding Player.

"It was one of the craziest moments of my life," Hibbing said. "I couldn't have pictured a better way to go out."

After Pittsburgh selected Hibbing, Brickman spoke with Anthony Wycklendt, the Pirates' area supervisor who scouted Hibbing this year and in 2011.

"You got him at the perfect time," Brickman said.

In this case, the second time's a charm.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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