Paul Williams isn't the fastest Staples-Motley Cardinal but he makes things happen with his speed.
The senior center fielder helped S-M's baseball team to a 6-3 start thanks to improved hitting, stellar defense and aggressive baserunning.
Williams was 3-for-5 with a triple and three RBI in a 12-7 game one victory over Pequot Lakes in a Mid-State Conference doubleheader May 7.
"He got up in the first inning and drove in a run right away with his triple to give us a lift," said S-M coach Pat Held. "Pequot started to come back and he put the game away in the seventh on a two-out, two-strike base hit to lengthen our lead."
During an 11-1 victory over Detroit Lakes May 4, Williams was 2-2 with four RBI.
"That was a real important win because we sort of slacked off the first game and didn't really get it done," said Williams. "Everybody wanted to get that second one so we did what we could do to get some runs."
Williams owns a .357 batting average, a .432 on-base percentage with 10 RBI, eight runs, two doubles, two triples and six stolen bases.
"I guess it always helps to be fast," said Williams. "I feel like I can get to some stuff in the outfield if another guy can't. I'm not even the fastest person on the team. We have faster people than me."
Held enjoys the way Williams plays the game. The second-year varsity player is aggressive on the bases and is able to run for extra-base hits. That puts pressure on the defense and that's what Held likes most.
"I think he's got a good chance to really put a nice year together for himself," said Held. "He's got a good eye at the plate. He doesn't swing at a lot of bad pitches. He doesn't strike out much.
"During the next two weeks we have nine games and that's going to really tell the story. We'll need people like him to step up and keep us focused during the difficult stretch."
The No. 5 hitter in the Cardinals' lineup is focused. He's enjoying his most productive offensive season. He has never put up numbers like this season.
"I'm definitely happy with the way I'm hitting the ball," Williams said. "I've never been able to hit before this year.
"One of my coaches said if you took a picture of my swing this year and compared it to ninth grade it would be two totally different people."
Williams is also doing damage with his arm. Against Pequot the right-hander threw out two runners at home plate.
"That always pumps people up," said Williams. "I love getting everyone's adrenaline running. The better I play, the better people play around me. If you can get people excited they're going to do better."
Williams hopes he can get his teammates excited enough to advance to state. He and most of the S-M seniors haven't been to a state tournament. This is their last chance and it's Williams biggest wish.
"Our main goal is just to get to state," he said. "I've never gone to state. All of the seniors, and everyone on this team, has a real good friendship with each other. Everybody works real good together. We have good senior leadership and we just want to get to state."
Other notable performances:
Baseball -- Jesse Nelson, Pequot Lakes, was 5-for-9 with five runs and three RBI in a doubleheader with C-I. He was 2-4 with two doubles and two RBI against S-M.
Zach Watercott, Pierz, was 3-4 with a two-run homer against Maple Lake.
A.J. Hartshorn, Aitkin, was 3-4 with one RBI against Hinckley-Finlayson and 3-5 with three RBI against Isle.
Isaac Johnson, Verndale, was 4-5 with two doubles, a two-run homer and five RBI, including the game-winner, against Bertha-Hewitt.
Golf -- Josh Dale, Pequot Lakes, was medalist in a Mid-Minn meet at Cuyuna Country Club.
Robert Bell, Pierz, was medalist at the Pierz Invite.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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