The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 66 of 95

Vance Williams Is The Complete Student-Athlete From bat boy to bus boy, no one has ever cherished the opportunity to wear the NC State baseball uniform more than senior right-hander Vance Williams. A native or nearby Cary, Williams grew up in the shadows of the State campus. His father, Phil Williams, is an NC State gradu- ate who operates the shot clock at Wolf- pack basketball games. Vance went to high school and pitched at nearby Athens Drive High School, about two miles down Avent Ferry Road from Doak Field at Dail Park. For several years, when Williams was in innings over his last 15 appearances. He found himself in an expanded role in 2011, making 14 appearances, including four starts, and went 2-0 with a 3.61 ERA. He worked 42 1/3 innings and struck out 33, including eight April 19 versus Campbell, all career highs. As a fifth-year senior on a talented but With that game as a starting point, Williams enters 2012 with a 3.19 ERA in 48 middle school, he served as a bat boy at Wolfpack games. He's a Dean's List student who gladly participates in community out- reach programs through the department of athletics. This spring, his photo adorns the side of one of the Wolfline buses on campus. He will be featured on the cover of one of the two editions of the baseball game program. None of this could possibly mean more to anyone else than it does to Williams. "It's really special," Williams said. "It's young and still somewhat unsettled pitch- ing staff, Williams is ready to expand his role even more. Whether as a starter or a reliever, he's hopeful of pitching on the weekends against ACC opponents. He pitched well in the fall, and continued the good work into preseason practice in Janu- ary and February. He appears to be ready. "He's one of the guys who could start," what I've always dreamed of. I started coming to campus when I was 6 years old and went all the way through high school. It's always been a dream to come here and play. As far as being on the cover of the program and on the side of the bus, I would have never imagined that that would happen. That just makes it that much more special." Williams' career path at State has had Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent said. "We've got to figure all that out, but the great thing about Vance is that he's done it all and can do it all. Vance is pitching better right now than at any time since he's been at NC State. That's good. And he knows he's pitching well. Vance is a guy who'll do anything to help the ballclub." A change in his arsenal has played a big role in Williams' strong performances in the preseason. "Last year I feel I hit a couple of bumps its ups and downs. He's made his contribu- tions, and he's also hit a few speed bumps along the way, but the trajectory has been steadily upwards. As a true freshman in 2008, he had surgery for a recurring elbow injury and redshirted. During his first two years, he saw occasional action in 32 games and worked 50 innings without making too much of a ripple. The last appearance of his sophomore season, however, opened some eyes and turned some heads. On June 5, 2010, in a second-round elimination game at the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional, Williams was called into action in the top of the first inning against Stony Brook with the Pack trailing 4-0, two out, and runners on second and third. He worked 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowed three hits, struck out five and did not surren- der a walk. He allowed just one hit after the first inning, a harmless two-out single in the top of the fifth. Unfortunately, NC State managed just two runs all day and was eliminated 6-2, marring Williams' coming-out party. "That game was really special for me, something I'll never forget," Williams said. "Coach [Tom] Holliday told us the night before that we were going to split the game between three of us, each person going three innings. We ran into some early trouble and I came in and ended up going 5 2/3 innings, which was a lot farther than I ex- pected. I felt good and was throwing well that game. I just got on a roll." run. Counting the end of the 2011 college season and the Cape Cod League season during the summer, Overman will enter 2012 having worked 45 2/3 consecutive in- nings without allowing an earned run. "Chris had a tremendous year and is a preseason All-American," Avent said. "He had a great summer, and it's a great feeling to have him back there in the bullpen. But we'll certainly have to have more than just Chris Overman in the pen. With the number of games we have early on, we have to have Williams, a fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher, graduated in De- cember with a degree in mechanical engineering and is now enrolled in graduate school. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS of many of the academic pressures that most student-athletes face. An honor student, he graduated in December with a degree in mechanical engineering and is enrolled in graduate courses. While looking for a job in engineering, he also plans to play baseball as long as someone will let him. If the Major League Baseball Draft works out in June, he'll pursue that. If not, he'll get on with his life and start his engineering career. It's a win-win situation. "We could sit here and talk about Vance Williams all day and probably not bring out when my breaking ball wasn't as good as it could have been," Williams said. "After talk- ing with Coach Holliday and Coach Avent, we made the decision to change from a curve to a slider. The slider's a lot harder and sharper, and it's a lot easier for me to control coming from my arm slot rather than a curveball. It's a big improvement, and right now I feel I'm throwing better than I have in the past." Williams will pitch the 2012 season free every good point about that kid," Avent said. "I know he's living the dream right now. He loves this school and has always loved this school. He epitomizes everything that we want here as far as a student, as far as a baseball player, as far as things that you do to represent your program, both on and off the field. "He's one of the more complete people and student-athletes that you could have. He's what we're all aspiring to be and what we'd all like to recruit and coach." — Bruce Winkworth some depth. Part of that will work itself out as the rotation falls into place." NC State won 35 games last spring and went to an NCAA regional for the eighth time in nine years and the 11th time in Avent's 15 seasons in Raleigh. Mazzoni (6-6, 3.30 overall but 3-0, 0.93 in his last four starts), catcher Pratt May- nard (.323, 21 doubles, five homers and 41 RBI) and first baseman Harold Riggins (.314, 11 doubles, four homers and 35 RBI) are playing professionally, but the heart of the lineup is back in place, and the heralded freshman class has fit in nicely with the returning veterans to give the Wolfpack the look of a winner again in 2012. "I like this ballclub," Avent said. "I like it a lot. I like the way they go about it. I like the way the young guys have mixed in with the old guys. But we haven't lost yet. We haven't been punched in the face yet. We haven't had a losing streak to see how they respond. With all that said, I'm very excited about opening up the season." ■ MARCH 2012 ■ 67

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