The Wolfpacker

January 2013

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 52 of 79

An infielder all his life, Fincher had moved to the outfield during fall practice with the idea that he would replace Williams in 2013, not 2012. After a slow start at the plate, Fincher did an admirable job, batting .300 with seven doubles, six triples, a homer, 23 RBI and 16 steals. He also made all the plays in center field. Fincher finished the year playing his best baseball and wound up earning Freshman All-America honors. While Fincher did yeoman's work and exceeded all expectations, Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent still finds himself wondering what if. Even after an outstanding season that included a 43-20 overall record, a 19-11 mark in ACC play and an NCAA regional championship, how much better could it have been? What if Williams had been in the lineup everyday? through preseason, and we were all excited about having a great season. To have that taken away from me, and in the first game of the season, that was really tough. "Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed watching those guys play, and I enjoyed the success they had. They had a great season and I was excited for them. But like I said, I've never enjoyed watching baseball. I wanted to be out there helping them win." Williams still was not yet cleared to play this past fall, so while his teammates practiced and scrimmaged, he rode the stationary bike, ran in the outfield, and did conditioning and strengthening exercises. A custom-fitted knee brace helped him overcome the psychological hurdles, and he can run at full speed, make cuts and move laterally with no pain and no fear. By the end of fall practice, he felt ready to go. "I don't think I understood how much I loved the game until I couldn't play it. I learned a lot from sitting back and watching, but there's nothing like playing. I intend to enjoy every minute of it." ■ Williams In 2011, Williams batted .286 with six home runs and 35 RBI, but he suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the 2012 campaign. photo courtesy nc state sports information ligament in a freak collision at first base. With the season less than 90 minutes old, Williams was on the shelf for the duration. "I was in denial at first," Williams said. "The doctor said after he first looked at it that it looked like an ACL tear, but he said it was possible it was just the meniscus. I was hoping that was all it was, but I knew better the next day when I couldn't move it at all." Freshman Jake Fincher went into center field for the top of the sixth inning and stayed there the remainder of the season. "We had so many good players last year that you don't want to say you can't play without a certain guy, but to lose Brett Williams as our center fielder, I just didn't see how we were going to replace him," Avent said. "He's one of the best center fielders I've ever coached, and he's an impact player offensively who was going to hit in the middle of our batting order. It was just a crushing loss for our team." It was a crushing loss for Williams, as well. While the team regrouped with Fincher in center field, Williams began the lonely path to recovery. Once the swelling in his knee subsided, he underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament. Then the hard work of physical rehabilitation began, starting with flexing exercises to allow the leg to straighten and bend naturally again. With the knee at last functioning like a hinge, Williams began a difficult regimen of exercises designed to heal and strengthen the knee. The process was long and it wasn't easy, physically or mentally. The exercise regimen was demanding. Watching his teammates play deep into the postseason and not being able to help was at times demoralizing. "[Sitting out last season] was by far the hardest thing I've ever done," Williams said. "I've always been a very competitive person, so I've never been any good at watching baseball. I'd rather be playing. I played with those guys all fall and all By Thanksgiving weekend, he was itching for the season to begin. "I'm very excited," Williams said. "I can't wait to get started. It's been a long time coming. My last [full] game was at the regional at Columbia [South Carolina] two years ago. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait." Without Williams in 2012, NC State fielded one of its best teams ever, finishing just short of the College World Series. With a deep and talented nucleus back from last season's juggernaut, the Wolfpack enters 2013 the subject of great expectations. Returning All-Americans Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner, both sophomores coming off of productive summers with USA Baseball, anchor the pitching staff and everyday lineup, respectively. With those two leading the way, the Wolfpack will almost certainly begin this season with its highest preseason ranking ever, probably in the national top five. A healthy Brett Williams will make that returning nucleus even stronger, and given a second chance at a senior season, he's intent on making the very best of it. "I'll tell you, after going through all that, I'll never take anything for granted in baseball again," Williams said. "I don't think I understood how much I loved the game until I couldn't play it. I learned a lot from sitting back and watching, but there's nothing like playing. I intend to enjoy every minute of it." ■ January 2013  ■  53 52-53.Brett Williams.indd 53 12/11/12 2:35 PM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - January 2013