Alika Williams struggled through the first two weeks of the 2020 season, starting just 3-for-24, never seeming to quite find his rhythm at the plate, in spite of a handful of hard-hit baseballs sprinkled throughout the first eight games.
He could not have picked a better time to break loose.
In the bottom of the eighth, his team down by one, the junior smoked a 2-RBI triple to left-center, helping propel Arizona State (6-3) to a 6-5 extra-inning victory over New Mexico State (8-1).
“Felt good,” Williams said with a smile of his day at the dish.
Williams singled to center field an inning prior to help spark ASU’s second run of the evening, later coming around to score on a Trevor Hauver RBI single. Hauver eventually had the walk-off walk that would end the contest in the bottom of the tenth.
Williams ended the night 2-for-6 with the pair of RBIs.
“I think we all just kind of took a step back as a team and were just like ‘simplify everything, it’s the same game we’ve been playing since we were ten years old,’” Williams said.
Don’t overthink this early slump. Williams is a Preseason First Team All American. He made Team USA this past summer. He hit a whopping .352 with two strikes on him last season. And head coach Tracy Smith firmly believes he will hear his name called in the first round of the MLB Draft this upcoming June.
He’s going to hit. And he’s more than likely, just like he did last year, going to hit a lot.
No one can be 100% positive when a slump is going to end. But Tuesday’s performance from the shortstop certainly feels like the start of something much bigger.
“Tonight I just simplified everything, and it definitely helps a lot to get a couple hits on the board for sure,” Williams said. “I realized that during the times when you’re not doing so well you’ve just got to stay positive and it’s hard but I think tonight I really put that to work and stay positive, even when I was 0-for-3 at one point.”
Spencer Torkelson had the bat taken out of his hands a couple of times again on Tuesday, getting intentionally walked three additional times, bringing that total up to 11 in just nine games. His five walks on Tuesday put him into a tie for the ASU record regarding most walks in a single game.
“I would walk him too, I wouldn’t throw to him,” Williams said with a smile and a slight chuckle.
The rest of the reinforcements are starting to formulate into place. Hauver found his groove over the weekend (he went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI in Tuesday’s win). Williams looked like his usual self against the Aggies in the win.
“(Torkelson’s) the best hitter in the nation and I understand what they were doing,” Williams said. “But Trevor’s right behind him and Trevor’s pretty dang good too.”
The final key piece revolves around third baseman Gage Workman, but the club has no doubt that his time is coming.
“We still haven’t gotten to where we’d like to be but it’s definitely progressing in the right direction,” Williams said.
Sophomore Erik Tolman was very sharp again, wasting no effort with his out-pitches. The sophomore recorded an additional eight punchouts over 5.1 innings of work. He struggled a bit in the first inning, walking the bases loaded, but he proceeded to fan back-to-back hitters to end the frame. After that, he cranked up the cruise control, retiring 12 of his final 13 hitters.
“He’s got good stuff,” Smith said. “His velocity is a tick better than it was last year, he’s grown up a little bit too, but he’s able to get ahead of guys. If you can pitch on top you’ve got a chance to get the swing-and-miss.”
ASU is back at Phoenix Muni on Friday night as they get ready for a three-game set with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. in the valley.