Area players propel ECU club baseball|Team finished 2009 season at No. 17 in country

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

Staff Writer

With the help of several players from the area, East Carolina’s club baseball team reached new heights this past season. The club team climbed to No. 17 in the final National Club Baseball Association Division I poll, released in June.
The NCBA is comprised of 118 Division I teams from across the country playing in 22 conferences. ECU plays out of the Mid Atlantic — South Conference, which includes club teams from Wake Forest, N.C. State, UNC — Charlotte, North Carolina and Elon. The Pirates also play teams belonging to the Mid Atlantic — North Conference during the regular spring season, including Maryland, George Washington, Virginia Tech, James Madison, Virginia and Towson.
In 2009, ECU made it to the NCBA Regional Tournament, joining MAC foes James Madison, N.C. State and Maryland. The Pirates eventually fell to tournament champion Maryland, which represented the MAC in the NCBA DI World Series. ECU finished third in the Regional Tournament, which is the closest the program has ever been to the World Series.
For their efforts, a handful of Pirates were recognized by the NCBA as club sports All-Americans, including Aurora native Patrick Williams. Williams made the first team as an all-American after his stellar junior season on the mound for the Pirates.
ECU’s ace wasn’t surprised to receive the accolade, and said it was the culmination of a lot of hard work.
“I knew my name would be up there with some of the good pitchers in the nation,” he said. “I was very pleased I got it though, that’s for sure.”
Williams was one of four pitchers named to the first team, after posting a 9-0 record with an impressive 1.59 ERA. He posted an outstanding 71 strikeouts in 56-plus innings pitched with just 14 walks for a strikeout to walk ratio of more than 4:1.
The rising senior that’s been clocked at 93 mph has been on the club team since his freshman year. He joined the team before the spring season after talking to club baseball head coach Joe Carracci, who’s a friend of the family.
“Joe needed a shortstop and called me up and asked me if I wanted to play for the team, and I was down for it,” Williams said.
Williams was a star pitcher for three years at Pamlico High School before transferring to Washington High School for his senior year to face better competition and receive more exposure. Williams joined a Pam Pack team that featured current ECU standout center fielder Trent Whitehead, and faced pitchers like former J.H. Rose and UNC phenom Alex White.
The flamethrower had his heart set on playing DI baseball in college, but was hardly interested in any offers he received.
“I was looking for a top 25 school,” he said.
So instead, Williams, an industrial distribution and technology major, decided to focus on his education.
The staff ace had no intention of playing competitive baseball until Coach Carracci came calling. Williams said Carracci is the reason for ECU’s increasing success and exposure.
“Joe has really helped the program. He’s put a lot of time into it,” Williams said.
The coach has also helped shape the attitude of the club team from fun hobby to serious sport.
“This past year, we had a different mentality,” Williams said. “We were out there trying to win it all and go to the World Series.”
Williams expects the team to have even more success his senior season.
“We’ve got some returning players,” he said.
One of those players is ECU’s starting first baseman, Dennis Butts. Butts, a former Pam Pack standout and Washington native, has been on the team for three years running. The power-hitting first baseman was also recognized by the NCBA for driving in a DI-high 36 runs on the season.
Butts joined the team with the encouragement of Williams, among others.
“I figured it would be competitive in the way that all the guys wanted to win and earn a position, but at the same time, kind of not like a full-time job like other teams are,” Butts said.
The former Pam Pack great is now pleasantly surprised to see how competitive the team has become.
“We went from a .500 team two years ago to finishing No. 17 in the nation and third at regionals,” he said.
The health and exercise fitness major attributes the team’s success to chemistry.
“I feel like we had one of the best group of guys that I’ve ever played baseball with, as far as coming together as a team,” he said.
The rising junior finished with a bold prediction for the Pirates.
“I expect us to win the region and at least compete in the World Series,” he said. “I think we’re going to be the strongest team in the conference.”