His first career collegiate start on the mound didn’t go so well.
But Mason County alum Darren Williams redeemed himself on Tuesday for Eastern Kentucky University, tossing four and a third innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out six in a 22-13 loss to Xavier.
After red shirting during his freshman season, Williams has answered the call numerous times for the Colonels this season, whether it be out of the bullpen or given the ball to start out the game.
“I’m thrilled to do what I get to do and love it. As long as I have rest, I know when I get the ball I will give it my all,” Williams said.
Williams started the season throwing his first seven and two third innings scoreless out of the bullpen, most notably shutting down nationally ranked Louisville at the time in his first ever college action, throwing four innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. He followed that up against another ACC power in Virginia, lasting an inning and two thirds, giving up a hit and striking out one.
Talk about a boost of confidence.
“It was huge. First time ever out there and throw four scoreless against one of the best in the country. It just let me know I belong here and can dominate at this level,” Williams said. “As a team we’ve knocked off Vanderbilt and Virginia and let’s us know we can compete with anybody.”
His success continued over his next two outings out of the bullpen against Bowling Green and Coppin State.
After a rough outing against East Tennessee State in his first ever start, he threw six more innings out of the ‘pen before getting the ball on Tuesday against the Musketeers. With the wind blowing out, Williams fared well before the Colonels decided to turn to the bullpen in the fifth. Not bad for a guy that found out he was getting the start at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday morning and a test to take for a class at 2 p.m.
While Williams fared well, the bullpen didn’t, giving up 20 runs, 14 earned over the next four and two third innings.
“Routine fly balls were going to the fence. It was tough,” Williams said.
But what kept the ball in the park for Williams was his control, striking out a career-high six without issuing a walk.
That’s been the formula to his success in his first season in uniform, handing out just six free passes in 21 innings of work.
“Staying ahead, limiting walks. Starting with strike one instead of falling behind in counts has been a big part of that,” Williams said.
His arsenal of pitches include a fastball, changeup and curveball with an occasional slider. After this season concludes, he’ll head up to Maine to play for the Sanford Mainers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Last summer he played for the Riverhead Tomcats in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League on Long Island, New York.
“Playing in those leagues helps a ton. Baseball is a game where you have to play to get better at. You can only have so many throwing or bullpen sessions. You go out there and get your feet wet, make in-game adjustments and build off of it. This summer will be a huge two months for me as I head into my upperclassmen years,” Williams said.
As he moves forward, Williams sees himself as a starter for the Colonels, but for now, he’ll take on whatever role they give him. EKU currently sits at 12-17 overall and 5-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The rest of the regular season they face the bulk of their conference, playing 21 of their final 27 games against OVC opponents. The OVC conference tournament begins May 22 in Oxford, Alabama.
“It’s been a fun year. We’re playing some good ball and it’s a fun team to be around. We bring a lot of energy to the ballpark. The difference is night and day from last year and we’re hoping to compete for an OVC title,” Williams said.