Right fielder Timothy Williams of the San Diego Force describes himself as a basketball player who could make three-pointers and drive to the basket. His father, however, saw a 5-foot-10 athlete with good speed and a future in baseball.
“I played basketball pretty much my whole life,” Williams said. “I didn’t think baseball was my sport. In high school, my parents told me to pick a sport and I said ‘I might as well try basketball.’ My dad pretty much told me ‘No, you’re playing baseball.’”
Good choice. Williams sparked the Force past the Cape Girardeau (Mo.) Capahas 7-3 on Thursday in the NBC World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The win puts the Force into Championship Week, joining the El Dorado Broncos as the two teams to survive the first week and join 14 teams in the next phase of the tournament that begins Friday.
The Force went 4-1 in the first week and get a day off before facing a bunch of rested teams beginning Saturday. San Diego manager Brian Basetyns hopes to use the busy week to his advantage. This is the longest road trip of the season for the Force, which usually plays around the San Diego area and doesn’t get much time to bond. He figures the Force grew used to the turf, used to the humidity and played all the jitters out while others sat idle. Plus, their loss is off the books as they start 0-0 on Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.
“Every day we’re getting closer and closer as a club,” he said. “We’re making ourselves at home.”
Williams looks more comfortable than almost anybody in the NBC, especially against Cape Girardeau. He went 3 for 5 on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in one. In Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Cape Girardeau, he went 3 for 4, scoring twice and driving in two. For the tournament he is hitting. 409 with a home run and six runs.
He tried out for the Force three years ago and got cut. Now they wouldn’t want to play without him. He graduated from NCAA Division III George Fox (Ore.) University in May and wants to stick with baseball as long as possible.
“It’s my passion,” he said. “I chose not to work a job so I can come out here and play with these guys as much as possible.”
The game didn’t start smoothly for Williams, who singled in the first inning. When Nick Boggan singled up the middle, Williams sped around second base and slid headfirst into third, taking a foot to his left eye. After a short delay, he stayed in the game and scored on a sacrifice fly. He drove in a run for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. He doubled to lead off the seventh and scored.
“He’s one of those guys that never quits,” Baseytns said. “Phenomenal athlete. Great attitude. For him, every day is a learning experience.”
The Capahas won two games on Wednesday, rallying to beat Liberal with four runs in the eighth and eliminating Ozark (Mo.) after trailing 5-0. Manager Jess Bolen knew another comeback was unlikely with his team short on pitching.
“We were playing a team that had a lot of depth and pitching,” Bolen said. “I knew coming in, we just simply didn’t have the pitching Now, if we had got by this game, you roll over the pitching and you crank it up again.”
San Diego’s pitchers kept the Capahas from making a serious threat. Force starter Adrian DeMar — helped by some sparkling infield defense — held the Capahas hitless until the fourth. He allowed four hits and struck out five in 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Tyler Elrod and Brock Heerdt survived some sticky situations to keep the Force comfortably ahead. Heerdt gave up a two-run double to Mark Hagedorn in the eighth, cutting the lead to 6-3, before ending the threat with a flyball.
“We knew if we came out and win this game, we got a clean slate,” Williams said. “Our team chemistry is what brings it home. We’re coming a long way.We say good-bye to our families and they know we’re out here to take care of our business.”