Hunter Mercado-Hood: USD’s under-the-radar star

Hunter Mercado-Hood is in his last year at the University of San Diego, and he is determined to make it a good one. Mercado-Hood, a senior outfielder for the USD baseball team, is hitting a career best .335 this season and has had a stellar year so far with the Toreros. According to Mercado-Hood, part of his career year has been taking on a bigger role as a player and as a leader.

“It has been a really fun year as a senior,” Mercado-Hood said. “We have a very close group of guys who really care about one another and are always having a great time being around each other. We, as a leadership group, are lucky to have hard-working younger guys since the day they set foot on campus, which makes it easier to lead.”

This formula has seemed to work for Mercado-Hood and his teammates, as they have posted a 29-16-1 overall record thus far, with Mercado-Hood in the middle of it all. Batting .335 with 17 doubles, 9 home runs, and 36 RBI, he has already set career bests in each of those categories except doubles, with nine games still to play in the 2017 season. He earned West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors in April, hitting .579 (11 for 19) that week, while also going 6 for 6 with a homer and a double in games against No. 16 Cal State Fullerton and New Mexico.

Mercado-Hood is among the team leaders in home runs. Photo by USD Athletics.

Mercado-Hood credited this success to changes he made with his hitting coaches this year.

“With the help of our hitting coaches, I’ve made a couple small mechanical changes to my swing,” Mercado-Hood said. “[They did some things] to help with getting shorter to the baseball, helping with timing, and getting to the inside pitch better.”

Mercado-Hood also attributed his success this season to simply maturing over time, as a player and a person.

“From freshman year to now, I’ve just matured as a person on and off the field,” Mercado-Hood said. “This program has really helped me create an even better work ethic and understanding for the game of baseball.”

As the season draws to a close, Mercado-Hood and the rest of the Toreros have their eyes on more than just regular season success. Currently sitting in fourth place in the West Coast Conference (WCC), the Toreros have a lot of work to do to win the WCC conference tournament but that doesn’t seem to phase them.

“Our goals as a team have not changed since the beginning of the year,” Mercado-Hood said. “Our goal is to win the conference championship tournament, which is an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Once we get into the tournament, we can set our sights on playing our way to get to [the College World Series in] Omaha. But before then, we just need to play our best baseball we can and enjoy our time together.”

The end of the 2017 season should give fans and players a lot to look forward to as the Toreros finish out their conference schedule. If all goes according to Mercado-Hood’s plan, fans could see the team make a run at the program’s first ever appearance in the College World Series.

Written by Anderson Haigler, Contributor