Williams helps Cutters win

Vermont catcher Jose Rivas stepped out to his right to receive the pitch out and fired to second.

Williamsport’s Corbin Williams didn’t particularly care. He stole second base anyway.

Lake Monsters shortstop Yerdel Vargas fielded a sharply hit ground ball cleanly.

Williams didn’t particularly care. He scored from third base anyway.

If fans needed a reminder of just how dangerous Williams’ speed can be, they received a crash course in the fifth inning Thursday night at Bowman Field. Williams led off the inning with a walk, stole his league-leading 13th and 14th bases, scored on a grounder despite the infield playing in, and in the process gave the Cutters the go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory over Vermont.

It was just the third win at home in 14 games for Williamsport this season, but it was also their third in the last four games.

Williams played brilliantly last night as Williamsport rebounded from one of its most difficult performances of the season by putting together maybe its most sublime performance, led by Williams. The left fielder was 2 for 3, walked once, and scored two of the Cutters’ three runs.

“I was very aggressive. I made them have to get me,” Williams said. “Good luck to them.”

If there is one thing for certain about Williams as a ballplayer it’s that his speed is better measure with a wind vain than a stopwatch. It’s swift and easy speed. There’s a reason he leads the New York-Penn League in stolen bases.

Hitting leadoff for Williamsport on Thursday night provided Williams an opportunity to set a tone for an offense which has scored the fewest runs in the league. He doubled to lead off the first inning, advanced to third on a fly ball to center field, and scored on Jake Holmes’ shallow sacrifice fly to right field.

Williams’ speed 1, Vermont 0.

When he talked to lead off the bottom of the fifth in a 1-1 game, he beat four pickoff throws back to first base before taking off on a 1-1 pitch which was a pitchout from Vermont reliever Osvaldo Berrios. Williams slide hard into second base, beating the throw from Rivas and setting up Williamsport with a scoring opportunity.

With Holmes batting, he stole third base on Rivas, just beating the throw to the bag with a feet-first slide. In a tie game in the middle innings, that stolen base forced Vermont to pull in the infield. The Lake Monsters’ only run to that point had been on a Rivas solo home run, and it didn’t appear the Cutters’ pitching staff was going to allow many scoring opportunities.

Without hesitation, Williams broke to the plate when Holmes rolled a ground ball directly at shortstop Vargas. Williams’ great break made Vargas rush his transfer and he bobbled the ball, forcing him to concede the run and take the out at first.

Williams’ speed 2, Vermont 1.

“At that point, I’m the fox and you have to catch me,” Williams said. “I don’t care who is on the mound, what’s his time to the plate, what’s the catcher’s pop time. You’re going to have to make a perfect throw to get me every time.”

Williams’ 14 stolen bases are two more than Hudson Valley’s Garrett Hiott. Prior to the season he said he was still learning how to used his speed as the weapon it is. The easy comparison to Williams is former Crosscutter Roman Quinn, and it’s a very apt comparison because of the way the two could impact the game just by finding their way to first base.

After reaching base three times last night, Williams has a .368 on-base percentage in 78 plate appearances. At this point in his career he’s not going to hit for much power, and that’s perfectly fine with him. Williams continues to play within the skillset he has, and it’s a dangerous skillset.

And with an offense looking for jump-starts as the Cutters try to climb out of the whole it created through the first three weeks of the season, Williams was just that Thursday night.

“We’re not hitting the best right now, so as long as I can get in scoring position, we give ourselves a chance,” Williams said. “Right now I feel good about what I’m doing.”

And so do his pitchers. His range in the outfield is best measure with a globe, and his strong right arm makes baserunners weary about trying to take extra bases.

Williams got a slow break on a fly ball in front of him to shallow left field last night, hesitating as he took a step back on a Marty Bechina pop-up. But he knew he had it, even if it did take a dive to corral the baseball and keep a Vermont runner stranded at second base.

It’s that kind of defense, which Williamsport largely has played this year, which have kept them in just about every game it’s played. And a night after committing five errors and handing Vermont eight runs, a diving play like Williams’ was a welcome site to a Cutters pitching staff which scattered 10 hits.

“We’re starting to feel better, but not good enough to be comfortable,” Williams said. “We still have to keep our foot on the gas and continue to get better. But a night like tonight, it lets us know that if we don’t make errors. We’re going to be in the game.”