After being drafted last summer by the San Francisco Giants, UK catcher Michael Williams decided to return to Lexington for his senior season. UK coaches, players and fans are glad he did.
“He has my admiration forever for coming back and being a senior with us, when he could've left,” coach Gary Henderson said, following UK’s sweep over Alabama this past weekend. “That means a lot to me, personally, means a lot to our program, means a lot to the other kids. It's a statement.”
Williams boldly predicted the Wildcats would be a surprise in 2012. The first school in the country to reach 40 wins, UK stands alone atop the SEC standings after being picked in the preseason to finish last.
“I'm just going to say, we might be a sleeper this year,” Williams said in February, during the team’s media day. “We've got a lot of talent. We're very good and come back with a lot of strengths. Luke (Maile), Thomas McCarthy, our pitching staff is better.”
“We've got more depth in the lineup. I think we're going to shock some people and I'm actually going to guarantee that.”
A little more than three months later, the Wildcats have lived up to the guarantee.
“To be honest, I am not surprised. I know how good our team is and the mindset we have, so I'm not surprised at all,” Williams said on Sunday. “I just want keep the pedal down and keep working.”
Williams, a 37th round pick of the Giants, plays with a ferocity not seen often in today's game. Henderson speaks glowingly of his senior backstop.
“He's got a spirit about him that's pretty obvious. I've had several coaches comment that he is the emotional leader,” Henderson said.
Williams and the Cats hoping to make another statement this weekend, by capturing the school's second SEC baseball title, when they travel to Mississippi State for the final SEC series of the year. The Cats and the Bulldogs play the first of three, beginning Thursday.