Junior Matt Williams appears to be blossoming into the star UC coach Brian Clearly believed he recruited with the spike in his offense the second half of the season.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- The junior campaing for Bearcats infielder/outfielder Matt Williams didn't jump off to a pretty start, but as the season has hit the home stretch it's become apparent his talent is blossoming toward a highly anticipated senior season.
After early struggles and a hamstring injury, Williams has started to heat up and entering the final series with Notre Dame, is batting .320 with 20 RBI through 43 games.
His hamstring injury, a byproduct of cold weather, benched him for six games in March. Before the injury he hit just .130.
Of course, a player never wants to have an injury during the season, but Williams acknowledged that adversity is part of the game. And maybe a part that helped pull him out of the early slump.
"I was able to rest it in the beginning, take a few games off and get right back into the season, which was nice," he said.
Since the injury, his numbers have soared. The Louisville series served as a turning point, as he was hitting just .227 and saw his batting average rise 59 points to .286 after that series. He says the key has been his focus during the precious at-bats he has gotten.
"I didn't have as many as, say Justin [Glass], so I knew I had less at-bats to use," Williams said. "I couldn't just waste them."
The Mason native and a CHCA graduate struggled slightly during his first two years at UC. His freshman year, he hit .250 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 184 at-bats. His sophomore year, he hit .241 with 2 HRs and 19 RBI in 199 at-bats.
This year, his at-bats have been fewer (153), but his average is much higher and he already surpassed career highs in hits, with more doubles and singles, than in previous seasons.
This requires a certain maturity, one Williams thinks he has found. Things have started to click for him.
Going into his senior year, his goal is not just to carry the focus of his at-bats over to next year, but also keep his maturity level up and assume a leadership role for incoming freshmen.
"After this year, I've really proved I've matured [the] last two years from a freshman to a sophomore [to] now," Williams said. "I've really shown that I can play."
Head coach Brian Cleary agrees something may have clicked for Williams as well.
"He is finally starting to resemble the player that we all thought he could be all along," Cleary said. "And I think one of the things he's learning is to trust his own ability and not trying to step in the batter's box and hit a five-run home run every time he's in there."
This is the maturity Williams talks about, such as taking singles when given to him.
"He's just putting good swings on the ball and some of them are singles and some of them are doubles," Cleary said. "I think he's starting to get consistent."
Cleary sees confidence building in Williams with every game. He's starting to see the player they envisioned when he was recruited.
"I think he's primed to have a really good season next year," Cleary said.