June 22, 2007
Former Notre Dame pitcher Joey Williamson – coming off the best season of his college career – has signed with the Colorado Rockies and thus will forego his final season of eligibility with the Irish. Williamson was selected by the Rockies with in the 36th round and is set to begin his professional career in a familiar setting for recent Notre Dame players, within the single-A Northwest League as a member of the Tri-City Dust Devils (based in Pasco, Wash.). He also plans to follow the lead of many previous Notre Dame players by returning to campus next fall, in order to begin work on his final two semesters of degree requirements as a double major in political science and computer applications. Williamson is one of 19 former Notre Dame players (12 of them pitchers) currently active in professional baseball.
When he completes his degree requirements, Williamson will became part of the Notre Dame baseball program’s impressive tradition of graduation-rate success. All 77 four-year players during the past 13 seasons of the Notre Dame baseball program (1995-2007) have received their degrees while the 16 who signed early with professional baseball (as juniors or sophomores, since ’95) include several who have completed or are nearing completion of their graduation requirements. Those former junior signees who already have received their degrees include one who eventually went on to medical school (All-America outfielder Ryan Topham), another who ultimately headed to law school (speedy centerfielder Scott Sollmann), switch-hitting outfielder Allen Greene (now a member of the Notre Dame athletics compliance office) and four who have been recently active in pro ball: All-America infielder Brant Ust, lefthanded pitching ace Tim Kalita, Academic All-America outfielder Brian Stavisky and All-America pitcher Chris Niesel.
Several recent Notre Dame players have started their pro careers in the Northwest League, including three with Tri-City (3B/C Andrew Bushey, RHP J.P. Gagne and 3B Matt Macri) and four with the Boise Hawks (C Paul O’Toole and RHPs Matt Laird, Ryan Kalita and Jeff Samardzija), plus RHP Danny Tamayo with the Spokane Chiefs, OF Brian Stavisky with the Vancouver Canadians, RHP Ryan Doherty with the Yakima Bears and 1B Craig Cooper with the Eugene Emeralds.
Williamson (Lantana, Fla.) – who made big strides in 2007, under the guidance of first-year pitching coach Sherard Clinkscales – is expected to fill a similar bullpen role with Tri-City, after ranking among Notre Dame’s top 2007 pitchers with a 2.81 season ERA, 4-3 record, two saves and 53 strikeouts in 51.1 innings pitched. He joins a Tri-City roster that features better than a 10-to-1 ratio of players who played college ball versus players who signed directly out of high school (excluding the foreign players). In fact, the 35 players currently listed on the Dust Devils roster include 21 former college players, 11 foreign players and only two who went straight from a U.S. high school to pro ball.
The 17 other pitchers currently on the Tri-City roster include another BIG EAST baseball alum (West Virginia’s Kenny Durst) and former Purdue closer Andrew Groves, plus seven other former college pitchers: Bruce Billings (San Diego State), Chris Buechner (Lamar), Austin Chambliss (Midland Georgia College), Devin Collis (Arkansas), Brandon Miller (Fresno State), Matt Reynolds (Austin Peay) and John Rodriguez (Mississippi). Three of the team’s catchers – Brian Aguailar (Oral Roberts), Nate Anderson (Virginia Commonwealth) and Lars Davis (Illinois) – also are college baseball alums, as are infielders Darin Holcomb (Gonzaga), Brandon Reichert (Florida State) and Warren Schaeffer (Virginia Tech), plus outfielders Josh Banda (California Baptist), Kevin Clark (Manatee JC), Brian Lapin (Fresno State), Michael Mitchell (Virginia) and Justin Nelson (California).
Williamson’s new teammates include 11 foreign players, among them five from the Dominican Republic, two from Puerto Rico and one each from Panama, Nicaragua, Australia, Taiwan and Mexico.
Comments from Williamson and Clinkscales follow below:
Joey Williamson – “This season I had a better opportunity to improve my consistency, which is something that I was missing in my first two years. Coach Clinkscales really helped me stay positive and consistent, and he really helped me improve my delivery by staying through to the plate. He lets all the pitchers be themselves, as long as they are getting the job done. I actually think that the struggles in my first two years will help me a lot. Looking back at it, I learned ho to handle things – not getting too overconfident but also not getting too down at times. Hopefully, the combination of all the things I learned and experienced in my three years at Notre Dame will benefit me in pro ball.”
Sherard Clinkscales – “There’s a saying we use called `willing the out’ and that’s something Joey was very strong at this season. He believed in his stuff and really grasped the concept of willing the outs. Mechanically, prior to the season Joey had a tendency at times to collapse on his back leg and drop the arm angle, which caused his fastball and slider to flatten out and not be consistent enough. That was something we worked on and he did a good job getting his directional better lined up with the catcher, which helped produce great results in his outings. Pitching is so much about confidence and I think Joey has the right level of confidence in his ability right now. The Rockies really liked his arm strength and competitiveness. If he stays tall and throws through the zone, he will be fine. He has that low-90s fastball and a `plus’ slider. I really believe that he has the potential to pitch in the big leagues. His success will depend on his confidence to will outs, through belief in his ability.”
Joey Williamson UPDATED BIO CAPSULE – Selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 36h round of the 2007 MLB draft and signed in mid-June before reporting to the Northwest League’s Tri-City Dust Devils (Pasco, Wash.) … his three-year career stats with the Irish included a 4.52 ERA, 5-4 record and nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (91/31) while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning (8.7 Ks/9 IP; 93.2 IP), plus 2 saves, 100 hits allowed (22 extra-bases, only 3 home runs), a .275 opp. batting avg., 24 hit batters and 5 wild pitches in 49 appearances (4 starts) … his pair of saves in 2007 actually tied for the team high … finished 2nd on staff in ERA (2.81), low opp. batting avg. (.225), strikeouts (53), appearances (17) and games finished (5), also 3rd in wins (4-3), innings (51.1), K-to-walk ratio (3.3; 53/16), strikeouts “looking” (13) and groundouts (53) … held opposing hitters to team-best .148 batting with 2-outs … averaged better than a strikeout per inning (9.3 Ks/9 IP, best on the staff) … equally effective vs. lefthanded (.222) and righthanded hitters (.226), with both marks ranking 2nd on the 2007 staff … allowed just 33% of leadoff batters to reach base (2nd on staff) … compiled a 10.2 WHIP (walks+hits per 9 IP) that included 7.4 hits (2nd on staff) and 2.8 walks (4th) per 9.0 innings … allowed .241 opponent batting with runners on base (3rd on staff) … averaged 3.0 innings per appearance (5th on staff), despite making just a pair of starts … his other season stats include 47 hits allowed (2 HR, 2 3B, 7 2B), 8 hit batters and 2 wild pitches … struggled early with letting inherited runners score but ultimately lowered his season “IRS” number to 5-of-14 inherited runners that scored (36%) … his steady production out of the bullpen included allowing just 2-for-13 batting by the first hitters he has faced as a relief pitcher (with 3 Ks and a double-play ball, plus a sac. bunt and a sac. fly) … allowed an unearned run as hard-luck loser in 2-1, opening-week game vs. Texas State, in San Antonio (3 IP, 3 H, 3 Ks, HB) … saved 4-1 win over #12 TCU the next weekend in Myrtle Beach (3 IP, H, BB, 2 Ks) … took loss as starter at Stetson (1.1 IP, 2 R/1 ER, H, 3 BB, 2 HB; 4-5) … logged 3.0 relief innings vs. Harvard, in Clearwater (2 R, 3 H, BB, 2 Ks; 0-4) … racked up career-high 7 Ks later on that Spring Break trip while pitching up 11-4 relief win over Dayton, at Florida Gulf Coast (4 IP, 3 H, BB, WP) … pitched in early home win over Cleveland State (2 IP, R, 2 B, 3 Ks; 5-3) … tagged with loss in first BIG EAST series, vs. South Florida (0.1 IP, 3 R/2 ER, 2 H, BB; 10-13) … logged 3.0 shutout innings vs. Central Michigan (H, 3 Ks; 4-8) … suffered relief loss at Pittsburgh (4 IP, 3 R/1 ER, 4 H, HB, 5 Ks; 0-5) but followed with bullpen victory at Cincinnati (4 IP, UER, 3 H, 4 BB, HB, WP, 4 Ks; 9-5) … pitched 3.1 innings in 6-1 loss to Georgetown (3 R, 5 H, HB, 3 Ks) … saved game-2 win over West Virginia (3 IP, 2 R, 4 H, BB, 3 Ks; 17-6) … pitched in second game of doubleheader at Rutgers (1.1 IP, 3 Ks; 0-7) and then picked up the win the next day as Irish rallied to take series finale, 6-4 (2.2 IP, R, 2 H, BB, K; 6-4) … had similar win in 6-4 game the following weekend, vs. Seton Hall (4.1 IP, 2 H, 6 Ks) … logged 4.0 shutout innings in game-2 at Louisville (H, 3 Ks; 3-4) … the four-game stretch vs. RU (2), SHU and UL saw him allow just one run in 12.1 innings (0.73 ERA), with 13 Ks, 5 hits allowed and only one “freebie” (1 BB, 0 HB, 0 WP) … started vs. Connecticut in his final appearance of the season, taking loss in another 4-3 game (5 IP, 4 R/3 ER, 7 H, BB, 2 HB, 5 Ks).