Clemson Baseball: Tigers cannot afford to be without Chris Williams for extended period of time

Jun 13, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; General view of logo before the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; General view of logo before the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Clemson baseball program has been among the nation’s best and brightest teams all season long, and one of the primary reasons why is because of catcher Chris Williams. The jack-of-all-trades slugger has come on strong for the Tigers this year, overcoming an early-season hand injury to become one of Clemson’s most dangerous power hitters this season.

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Now, Williams is dealing with a potentially serious shoulder injury suffered while diving back toward first base in last Saturday’s game, and he could miss the entire Louisville series because of it. There is even a chance that the injury could keep him out beyond this weekend’s Louisville series, and, if that were to be the case, Clemson could be in serious trouble.

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A former transfer from a junior college in California, Williams has transformed from a utility player of sorts to one of the Tigers’ most important players. Currently a junior, Williams has filled the void left behind the plate following the graduation of Chris Okey very well, helping curtail the preseason fears that Seth Beer would be the only heavy hitter in the batting order.

Williams is a special talent, with expert defensive abilities at catcher and first base. But his prowess at the dish is what has made him such a precious commodity for the Tigers in 2017. He is currently leading the Tigers in home runs (13) and RBI (47) and, as evinced by his .296 batting average, Williams is one of Clemson’s most reliable hitters.

Fortunately for Clemson, the shoulder injury does not seem to be too severe, but it could result in Williams being temporarily used exclusively as a designated hitter, which is something that head coach Monte Lee touched on earlier this week.

“The big thing is to get him day by day feeling a little bit better, and I think the next couple of days will tell us a lot. It will tell us if we’re going to be able to DH him.”

When Williams was out early on in the season, the catching committee used to replace him proved fairly ineffective. Since then, backup catchers Robert Jolly and Kyle Wilkie have come along strong, naturally progressing as their experience has grown, but what Williams provides in the starting lineup game in game out cannot be easily replaced.

Therefore, this is definitely an inopportune time for Williams to suffer this injury, as the Louisville series will serve as the ultimate measuring stick as to where the Clemson baseball program stands in terms of national championship contention, and not having one of its best players could seriously hurt Clemson’s chances in what should be a difficult road test.

The Tigers certainly need Williams to be at full health as soon as possible with the postseason nearing, as his skill set has proved to be just as vital to Clemson’s success as any of the more prominent names in the batting order this season. A shoulder injury for any baseball player, especially a catcher, can derail his season if it ends up being a nagging ailment. So if Williams is able to give it a go, whether it be at catcher or designated hitter, all eyes should be on his entire body of work this weekend in order to discern what his outlook is like moving forward.

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