Senior comes back from shoulder injury to hit game winner
As Chris Williams was walking out to the batter’s box from the dugout in the bottom of the 10th inning with the game tied and two on, Clemson head coach Monte Lee stopped his talented hitter and gave him a message.
“I told him, ‘they are going to walk Seth (Beer) right here to pitch to you’ and he kind of laughed,” Lee recalled of the conversation. “I don’t know if he believed they were going to do it. ‘But they are going to walk him to pitch to you.’
“All I was trying to do was tick him off a little bit so he will get a few swings on it.”
Williams did not believe it, so he just laughed it off. But Lee was correct. William & Mary pitcher Wade Strain did intentionally walk Beer, arguably the best hitter in college baseball, to get to Williams.
“I really did not think they were going to walk Seth in that situation. I did not think they were going to want to load the bases up and pitch to me,” the senior said. “But, they did. It is something every kid always dreams of … extra innings, bases loaded and you are up there trying to get the winning run in. It was just a dream come true and it was a lot of fun.”
Williams hit Strain’s 2-2 offering through the left side of the infield, scoring freshman Bryce Teodosio from third with the game-winning run as No. 12 Clemson rallied to beat William & Mary, 5-4, in the season opener Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.
“It is always good to have Chris come up because of what kind of threat he is at the plate,” Lee said.
It was a picture perfect beginning to the season for Williams, who decided to return to Clemson last summer for his senior season after suffering a shoulder injury that limited his hitting and took him from behind the plate as the starting catcher.
Williams tried to come back during the last month and contribute despite the injury, but he was limited in what he could do at the plate and subsequently went 2-for-22 down the stretch.
So in his first game back since his June 27th surgery, Williams went 2-for-4 at the plate. Besides driving in the winning run, he also had a two-out double in the ninth to set up Robert Jolly’s two-run single, which got the Tigers back in the game and eventually tying it to send it into extra innings.
“Getting this win was more than anything I could have wanted,” Williams said. “Just being out here and playing again with all my brothers, there is nothing I want more.”
Clemson, who ended a four-game losing streak on opening day, was sure glad to have Williams back as well.
“Chris Williams is a special player to me,” Lee said. “He is the first player I signed here at Clemson. When I first got the job here we had Chris Okey as the catcher and we felt like we needed another catcher and we convinced a young man from California to come all the way across the country. It says a lot about Chris Williams.
“In his first year here, he did not catch a whole lot. He played first, he played at third base. He did whatever it took to help our team win. That is the kind of makeup this young man has.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has fought back from injury. He came back after breaking his hand in the preseason last year. After missing the first few weeks of the season, he returned to lead the Tigers in hitting, RBIs and home runs before the shoulder injury in the last month of the regular season slowed him down.
“This kid has been banged up, but he will find a way to get on the field and help our team win a ballgame,” Lee said.
And that’s what Williams did Friday night. He fought his way back and he helped his team find a way to win a ballgame.
“Again, he is a blue collar kid. He plays the game like it is a sandlot game,” Lee said. “He is always talking. He is always having a lot of fun and he will do anything to help us. He is a special kid to me.”