Tournaments | Story | 7/12/2019

Williams cranks up the velo

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Case Williams (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It was another hot morning in the west Phoenix suburbs last Sept. 15, right about 10 months ago to the day.

The Colorado Recruits, a team based in beautiful Castle Rock, Colo., were at the Perfect Game Upperclass Fall National Championship Protected by G-Form that morning, preparing to play their second pool-play game at the PG national championship tournament.

There really wasn’t anything all that remarkable about the Recruits’ matchup with the AZ Athletics 18u Orange or the setting on the Indians’ side of the Goodyear (Ariz.) Ballpark MLB spring training complex, which the Indians share with the Reds.

The Recruits were set to march out to the mound that morning a 6-foot-3, 225-pound right-hander out of Castle Rock by the name of Case Williams, a highly regarded athlete who was really just starting to garner the attention of PG’s ever-vigilant scouting department.

And Williams didn’t disappoint that day, either. Just 16 years old on that September morning, Williams went on and threw six solid innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits with seven punchouts and just two walks.

Most noteworthy for the purposes of this report, his fastball generally sat around 84 mph and topped-out at 86 mph; he was the winning pitcher in a 10-1 Colorado Recruits victory.

Ten months have flipped-off the calendar since that outing, and last Sunday, June 7 – opening day at the PG 17u BCS National Championship – Williams walked out to the mound at City of Palms Park and went back to work; he also caused a bit of a stir amongst those holding radar guns.

That 86 mph fastball that sat around 84 mph just 10 months ago? Well, on that hot and humid day along Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast that fastball was now coming in at an average of 91 mph and topping-out at 96 mph – a 10 mph increase in velocity in 10 months’ time.

After watching Williams pitch on Sunday, PG scouting coordinator Tyler Russo noted that the pitcher “made a very loud entrance” into the 17u BCS and went on to report:

“(Williams) has made massive strides … and has firmed up the frame, causing the jump in velocity to come with it. The lower half is firm, allowing him to repeat a low-effort, controlled delivery with a very quick, smooth arm action. … There’s a lot to like in terms of what could be left in the tank and … Williams will become a big-time prospect to watch at the next level and beyond.”

“Over the last year I’ve been really working out a lot,” Williams told PG Friday morning, speaking from the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex near downtown Fort Myers. And, by the way, he is now listed at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds.

“I’ve been working on slimming down and I think that really helped, and I’ve been putting on more good weight, more muscle,” he said, “and using THROWformance, I think that really helped with my arm care and overall flexibility and strength in my body.”

Brian Byler, the head of this Colorado Recruits program, and Craig Gienger, the head coach at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock which Williams attends, and who is also heavily involved with the Colorado Recruits, are here with the CR 17u team this week.

Both Byler and Gienger agreed that the increase in Williams’ velocity can be directly attributed to his association with the Sandlot Sports Academy in Castle Rock and his involvement with the THROWformance throwing program created by Texas Baseball Ranch “disciple” Sean McCourt.

“(McCourt) is in our organization, he’s with the Colorado Recruits, and he’s been very instrumental for us,” Gienger said. “We have these kids going in two days a week, and then in the spring with my high school team we were doing it two or three times a week. … We’ve kind of been at it since a little before last fall.”

According to Sandlot’s website:

“THROWformance is designed to meet your individual needs and transform you into a high-level thrower. We create a custom, individualized program to help correct your inefficiencies and teach you to throw harder and move faster.”

Williams, a Santa Clara commit who is ranked as the No. 105 overall national class of 2020 prospect and the No. 1 prospect in Colorado, isn’t the only Colorado Recruit/Douglas County HS Husky who has benefitted from this training program.

Noah Greenwald, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound 2020 right-hander/middle-infielder, has seen his fastball velo increase from 85 mph last year to 91 mph at the 17u BCS National Championship. He and Williams combined on a one-hitter against Team Nike New England back on Sunday.

“I’ve been playing with him for a while now and we’ve been doing a lot of the same stuff,” Williams said of Greenwald. “We’re developing together, really, and it’s been nice.”

Gienger said the players both in his high school program and the Colorado Recruits program do a lot of swimming along with other conditioning and he feels like that has helped Williams as well. All of the players have been working with strength and speed coaches, too, all in an effort to improve their game on the field.

The high school team starts swimming in November and continues that regimen all the way through December. Williams feels like that helps with mobility and getting everything moving in the right direction before getting involved in more baseball-centric activities as the season approaches.

A lot of the added velo has come from the strengthening of his lower body and his core, and he did it without changing anything with his mechanics. The message at THROWformance is “throw hard with health.”

“I think guys like that are really good for the other guys coming into our organization because we have The Factory setup, we have the Sean McCourt setup, and we also have Brad Hill with us, who was the head coach at K-State for 15 years, providing a recruiting piece.

“And so, we have a plan when they come in and they move through that plan, and hopefully we’ll have more kids making jumps like that.”

This appears to be a good age-group for a pitching prospect like Williams to be involved with a program like THROWformance. Gienger told PG that the Colorado Recruits do have younger kids doing similar things with McCourt, which enables the youngsters to get acclimated to the program.

But, he said, it is at the 16u and 17u age-groups when the biggest gains are made and when things really start to come together for the teenage prospects.

“I wouldn’t want all of this to happen any later,” Williams said. “It would have been nice if it happened earlier but it didn’t, and everything happens for a reason; I’m happy with where I’m at.”

A kid’s character comes into play, too, because low-character guys don’t usually end up having an impact. Gienger noted that Williams is an excellent student who gets his work done both in the classroom and out on the field, saying “he’s just a quality kid.”

“He’s a great teammate, as you can see,” Byler added. “He was playing in the field yesterday and we were down by a bunch of runs. He could have rolled over but he hit a double in the gap – he’s just always competing.”

The Recruits’ run here at the PG 17u BCS National Championship got off to a shaky start when they finished 2-4-0 in pool-play and got relegated to the lower-tier Platinum Bracket for the playoffs. But once there it was Katie-bar-the-door as they won first- and second-round playoff games by scores of 1-0 and 3-0, respectively, to move into Saturday’s quarterfinal round.

Williams was scheduled to start the first-round game but was a late scratch, although not for anything physical. Greenwald threw a complete-game two-hitter in the 3-0, second-round victory over the Florida Hurricanes 17u Platinum, striking out four and walking two with a fastball that topped-out at 86 mph.

“It’s been a lot of fun being with the boys and coming out and playing baseball,” Williams said. “… These are the people you’re going to be competing against later on (in your career). It’s fun to just see something different rather than the same Colorado teams we see a lot back home.”

“We’ve seen some good competition, for sure, and that’s what we want. We want to put our kids in front of some really good competition,” Gienger concluded.

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