Williams steps into new role as ace

Two years ago, junior pitcher Trevor Williams came out of the Arizona State bullpen as the eighth-inning man.

Last year, he was a weekend starter.

This year, the junior from San Diego overtakes the role all college pitchers dream about: Friday night starter.

Williams undoubtedly earned the job. He went 12-2 with a 2.05 ERA last season as the No. 2 starter behind Brady Rodgers.

Rodgers was drafted by the Houston Astros, allowing Williams to take his lead.

“Now that I’ve had Brady in front of me, it’s really cool to follow in his footsteps to know what he’s done and to take me under his wing,” Williams said. “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”

With the role, comes a lot of pressure. Williams said is ready for the task.

“It’s an honor and a blessing,” Williams said. “The responsibility for being a Friday night starter at Arizona State is great because you set the tone for the weekend.”

Besides the loss of Rodgers, the pitching staff has to deal with the departure of closer Jake Barrett and reliever Robert Ravago to the MLB.

Head coach Tim Esmay knows they won’t be easy to replace and will rely on some young arms early on.

“We are going to ask those young kids on the mound to make a big impact for us early,” Esmay said.

Sophomore Adam McCreery, a 6-foot-9 left-hander, looks poised to take the Saturday starter position after posting a 1.32 ERA in limited time last year due to injury.

“He threw really well towards the end of the year and had a really good summer in the Cape Cod League and has shown nothing different from that since he’s been back,” Esmay said. “Adam’s been progressing tremendously.”

Sophomore Darin Gillies showed flashes of brilliance during his freshman year but finished 1-4 with a 5.03 ERA in 39.1 innings.

But Esmay liked his progression since last season and thinks Gillies could be very impactful this season.

“He’s another year older and stronger and had a good summer,” Esmay said.

Senior Alex Blackford started nine games last year and could also be in the mix for a starting spot.

Like Gillies, Blackford didn’t have a stellar ERA of 5.71. He did have strong performances, including striking out 10 in seven innings against Northern Illinois.

Esmay is hoping Blackford, who is only one of two senior pitchers, can be the solid veteran presence in the rotation.

The other senior pitcher, left-hander Matt Dunbar, is the Sun Devils’ best returning reliever and Esmay plans to keep him in a similar role to last year.

“We are going to leave Dunbar as our lefty situational guy because he responds well with his arm so he can throw back to back days,” Esmay said.

As for the closer spot and other bullpen positions, Esmay thinks true freshmen like Ryan Kellogg, Brett Lilek and Ryan Burr could get a shot to earn those roles.

“We are looking strongly at some of our young guys as back end guys,” Esmay said.

 

Reach the reporter at dsshapi1@asu.edu