One of the key players returning for Auburn’s 2021 baseball season told me he is determined to have a strong performance on the do-over for his junior year.
Steven Williams, the starting right-fielder for Coach Butch Thompson’s team, is a left-handed hitter with plenty of power. He has been a regular in Auburn’s starting lineup dating back to his Freshman All-SEC season in 2018 when he tied for second on the team in home runs with a dozen and was third in runs batted in with 51.
After batting .291 as a freshman, his average dropped to .247 in 2019, but he came through for the Tigers in their NCAA Regional Tournament victory. Taking on Georgia Tech in Atlanta, his dramatic three-run, walk-off homer with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning sparked the Tigers in the regional on their way to a trip to the College World Series.
Williams followed his big hit vs. the Yellow Jackets with a two-run double the next day in the regional’s final game as he earned tournament MVP honors. He continued to swing a hot bat in Auburn’s super regional round victory at North Carolina and in his team’s two games at the College World Series at Omaha.
The 2020 Tigers set a goal of returning to Omaha, but had the plug pulled on the season in March prior to the start of SEC play due to the Covid-19 scare. Despite dealing with a hamstring problem, Williams was off to a solid start with a .275 batting average with seven runs scored, four doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI.
The outfielder’s plan was to have a big 2020 season, be drafted and sign with a pro team this summer.
“It is kind of a weird situation and things changed,” he said about the Major League Baseball Draft, which was cut from 40 rounds to five rounds last month. Pro teams tried to sign him as a free agent this summer, but he declined in order to position himself to be a high draft pick next June.
To help make that happen, he has been working out on his own this summer and notes he is 100 percent recovered from his injury. Williams will be making regular visits to a training facility outside of Atlanta that is used by pro baseball players and others to work on their hitting skills and stay in good baseball shape. Williams is scheduled to rejoin his teammates at Auburn when classes start in August, and soon after that Thompson and his coaching staff will put their players through offseason workouts.
Normally, college players like Williams can compete in summer amateur baseball leagues, but with many of those canceled this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak he has been on his own for training.
There is, however, amateur baseball being played around the country this summer.
For example, Auburn commitment Drew Nelson from Pike Liberal in Troy was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in helping his summer ball team win a 16 and under wooden bat national championship. The lefty still has two years of high school before he will join the Tigers. It is another sign that Thompson and his staff are continuing to recruit at a high level.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter