Williams-Sutton the old man in the outfield

Published 4:18 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

GREENVILLE — It won’t be easy for East Carolina sophomore outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton to top his sensational freshman season, during which he led the American Athletic Conference in hitting.

Williams-Sutton led the conference with a .360 batting average and a .551 on-base percentage. He enters this season as a unanimous preseason All-AAC selection. However, open positions in the outfield have given the 6-foot-1 slugger more to think about than just offense.

Last season, Williams-Sutton spent most of his time in left field, but departures from former starters Garrett Brooks and Parker Lamm have opened up the entire outfield. Though he’s only in his second year, Williams-Sutton is now the old head in what will be a new-look outfield.

“I know Dwanya is going to be in the green grass somewhere in the outfield, I just don’t know where yet,” head coach Cliff Godwin said.

Godwin has toyed around with Williams-Sutton, admittedly taking him out of his comfort zone and testing his range in both center and right. Though Godwin said he has the sophomore penciled in at left when the season opens Feb. 17 against Ole Miss, we could see Williams-Sutton making a move elsewhere.

“He’s been putting me in center field and right field,” Williams-Sutton said. “I haven’t played (in right field) since travel ball so it’s not comfortable to me. But he always says we have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Dwanya Williams-Sutton safely halts at third base during a game last season. The sophomore was one of ECU’s most reliable offensive weapons.

Dwanya Williams-Sutton safely halts at third base during a game last season. The sophomore was one of ECU’s most reliable offensive weapons.

More goes into a position change than meets the eye — even amongst the outfield. For Williams-Sutton, Godwin’s willingness to shift his slugger perhaps shows a vote of confidence for a player who, at times, struggled in the mental aspect of the game as a freshman. His four errors from left didn’t help his cause.

During the team’s super regional against Texas Tech, Godwin pulled Williams-Sutton for seemingly giving up on a play in the outfield. Just like that, ECU’s most productive offensive player was out of the most important game of his life.

“Last year I got down on myself a lot,” he said. “One bad at-bat, I would come in and hang my head. But we have Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler, Charlie (Yorgen) and they all tell me, ‘Why are you getting mad at yourself? You’re one of our best players.’”

But things have changed for Williams-Sutton. He says he’s turned a corner and feels more mature. He doesn’t get let the lows get too low. In an outfield with more questions than answers, he hopes to confirm his coach’s trust and be a staple in an otherwise unknown group, whether it be left, center or right.

“If he needs me anywhere I’m going to be ready to play,” Williams-Sutton said.