Arkansas Baseball is having a good start to its season, going 12-4 and while many are to thank for that, freshman Jaxon Williams has been an integral part of the early season success.
“It’s going great so far,” Williams said. “Got off to a good start, playing well, pitchers throwing strikes, hitters hitting. So, pretty good start for us.”
Batting an even .300 through the first 11 games he’s played in, Williams is happy with the contributions he’s been able to make.
“I’m getting some playing time,” Williams said. “Being a freshman, that’s all you can ask for. Just being around the guys, all that stuff, learning from them, it’s a pretty cool experience.
Head coach Dave Van Horn said he expected this kind of production from Williams.
“I tell you, we knew he was a good player when we recruited him,” Van Horn said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job of making adjustments. When he first got here, he was trying to hit the ball out of the park. Sometimes you just have to be who you are, and sometimes that is a guy who hits line drives up the middle.”
He started off red-hot, recording five RBIs with only two at-bats in a Feb. 26 game versus Bryant University.
“It felt great,” Williams said. “Helping the team out, getting some RBIs for them. Couldn’t ask for a better start, really.”
Van Horn said that of the many tools Williams has, his patience with the pitcher is among the most important.
“He has a great approach to the plate, and another key to his success is that he’s not swinging at bad pitches” Van Horn said. “He’s ahead in that count and they’re having to come at him a little bit and he’s made (them) pay for it. He’s done a tremendous job driving in runs.”
After the series against Bryant, Van Horn said how Williams helped turn the game around and helped give the team a win.
“He (Williams) got a big hit there with two outs and a runner at second and third,” Van Horn said. “He didn’t try to pull that pitch and he drove that ball to opposite field and got us within one.”
Williams’ teammate Grant Koch said he thinks Williams has been so clutch this season because of his maturity.
“It’s maturity,” Koch said. “A lot of the hits he has are going the opposite way or up the middle. They’re not pop-ups and that’s what we need in a big-time situation.”
It wasn’t always his dream to come to the UofA, but when assistant coach and star recruiter and Tony Vitello got ahold of him, Williams made the decision to pursue a career with the Razorbacks.
“I started off, coming from Texas, UT was my dream school,” Williams said. “But when coach Vitello reached out to me and told me about Arkansas, I looked into it and found out it was a pretty cool school (and) a great area to live in.”
Williams got a later start to playing baseball than most, but when he realized it’s what he wanted to do, he devoted his life to it.
“I started playing baseball when I was 7,” Williams said. “So it’s a pretty late start for me, seven years old, but as soon as I stepped on the field I knew this is what I wanted to do for my life.”
Williams has high hopes for every year of eligibility he has as a Razorback.
“Winning a College World Series is every kid’s dream, so win a world series, maybe two,” Williams said. “Hopefully three or four.”
With an injury to second baseman Carson Shaddy in the final game of the series against Rhode Island, Williams stepped in as the team’s lead second baseman. While he doesn’t know if that is a trend that will continue, he looks forward to the opportunity to play until Shaddy returns.
“We have a couple other guys that can play second base, too,” Williams said. “Shaddy going down is a tough loss for us, but if he puts me there at second base, hopefully I can contribute there.”
With all the early season success, he still keeps his head level. He focuses on what the team needs, not what the individual wants.
“I don’t expect it, but I always try to do what’s best for the team,” Williams said. “I mean, getting RBIs, moving people over, I’m going to try to do that.”
Williams will get another shot to show Razorback fans what he can do during SEC play when the Hogs host Mississippi State this weekend. The first game of the series will begin 6:30 p.m. Friday at Baum Stadium.