Nick Williams, Vols 'dig deep,' hold off Ball State

Head down, towel on his face, teammate draped over his shoulder, Nick Williams didn't act like somebody who had just clinched a win.

The Tennessee closer just looked like a survivor, and a frustrated one at that.

Williams was hit hard almost as soon as he stepped on the mound to lock up another victory, and the barrage didn't show signs of stopping in the ninth inning. But a visit from his coach and a deep breath helped Williams and the Vols escape with a 9-7 decision over Ball State on Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"I just knew that our team battled all game, and I didn't want to give it up," Williams said. "It's my job to come in and close out games, and I had to dig deep and fight to get the outs."

The hole was of his own design as Williams was greeted with four consecutive hits by the Cardinals (2-7) after inheriting a three-run lead, a margin that was quickly trimmed to two before he retired a batter.

And while all the credit in the battle that followed didn't go to Williams, he delivered the timely pitches the Vols (9-3) needed to strike out the next two batters and induce a grounder to second base that clinched his third save after a diving stop by Will Maddox.

"Nick can be an emotional guy at times because he's kind of a perfectionist," UT coach Dave Serrano said. "That's why I went out to the mound. His body language when he gave up a couple hits kind of bothered me a little bit. I don't want our guys to want to give up hits, but in Nick's role, that's what his job is — to come in with a three-run lead and pound the strike zone, and (see) if somebody makes him pay with a hit. I just wanted to get him back on his own side."

Whether it was the message or simply the chance for Williams to catch a break, it worked.

And along with a couple hard-nosed stops by catcher Ethan Bennett and the defensive gem by Maddox, Williams ensured that impressive relief outings by Robbie Kidd (2-0) and Drew Steckenrider would stand up for a win.

"I don't like to lose," Williams said. "And when the ball is in my hand at the end, I feel like I can help the team win.

"When something does go wrong, I tend to get mad because I feel like I can do better than what I did. But being a closer ... when it does, you have to flush and keep going to the next batter."

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Comments » 4

thevoice writes:

Way to dig for it. A win's a win in baseball. Can't wait for league play.

GreerVol22 writes:

finding a way to win against a 2-7 team sure beats finding a way to lose to them. It's profound...I know.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Was at the game. The boy battled at the end from 3 on, no outs to getting 3 straight outs. I also found it funny that Steckenrider was the player of the game without any mention of it in the article. Dude was 2-2 with a monster homerun and an RBI single. A walk or two along with that. Not to mention he came in and pitched for 2 innings and struck out 5 of the 6 hitters he faced. Dude throws a solid 96 mph and doesn't even look as if he's trying.

OrangePride writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Was at the game. The boy battled at the end from 3 on, no outs to getting 3 straight outs. I also found it funny that Steckenrider was the player of the game without any mention of it in the article. Dude was 2-2 with a monster homerun and an RBI single. A walk or two along with that. Not to mention he came in and pitched for 2 innings and struck out 5 of the 6 hitters he faced. Dude throws a solid 96 mph and doesn't even look as if he's trying.

Agree whole heartedly.....Steckenrider's performance was absolutely awesome. In fact, w/o him, I don't think the Vols win this game. From where I sat, Ball State did not look to be a very good team at this point in their season. Numerous mental and throwing errors really mounted up on them. And if you looked at their hitters coming in, at least half were either under or near 200 in batting percentage. I will give them their due, however, they weren't quitters.....they battled every step of the way; as did our Vols. Kind of a strange game in that you kept thinking Tennessee had the game in hand and then Ball State would rally back into it...especially the ninth inning. I'm happy for the success we've had to this point...BUT, that said, I recall we had a really good beginning last year until we hit SEC competition. So I will keep my enthusiasm and orange-colored glasses off until we've tested the SEC waters a bit. GO VOLS!

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