South Carolina baseball preview: 3 storylines for 2017
South Carolina infielder Matt Williams has made seven career starts as he enters his fourth season in the Gamecocks’ program.
The Honea Path native could have transferred to another school for more playing time, but instead opted to patiently wait for his opportunity to contribute at USC.
That patience appears to finally be paying off as Williams is expected to start at first base, at least against right-handed pitchers, for the Gamecocks in 2017.
“I don’t have any regrets or anything,” the redshirt junior said. “I love this school. I love the coaches. I love being around the guys. It’s been fun and I’m looking forward to this season.”
Williams redshirted in 2014 before playing in 10 games with one start in 2015. Last year he played in 18 games with six starts, hitting .240 with a double, two home runs and two RBIs.
Williams believes not playing early helped him become the player he is today, a confident hitter who was impressive in the offseason.
“I redshirted my freshman year and it was a mutual decision between me and coach to benefit me in the future,” he said. “Hopefully that’s what’s going to happen now. I think I can help the team now more so than I could have then and I think that was the ultimate goal.”
Williams is expected to play a lot at first base for the first time this season.
He grew up playing shortstop before receiving most of his playing time at USC at second base. Williams played a couple of games at first base last season and worked at the position in practice in 2016, as well as throughout the offseason.
The move took some getting used to, but Williams feels good about where he is defensively.
“The ball comes off the bat a little different. The stress is a little different. I’m learning how to stretch over there and pick balls and kind of be a wall,” he said. “The transition is not too bad. I’m an infielder. I’ve got pretty good hands, I’d like to think.”
Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook praised Williams over the weekend when asked about his potential starting lineup.
“Matt Williams has done some really good things for us at first and swung the bat pretty well and he’s an older guy,” Holbrook said.
Williams is appreciative of the praise.
“I just try to take it one day at a time and do me, do the things I need to do to make myself better and make the team better,” he said. “I try not to listen to that, but it’s very exciting.”