By Dennis Garcia
Like so many senior collegiate baseball players, N.C. Central's Carter Williams was in a wait-and-see mode.
As a senior at N.C. Central who was enjoying a stellar collegiate career, Carter was hoping to finish off his Eagles career and then hear his name called at MLB's annual First-Year Player Draft in June. But the coronavirus that swept the nation and caused the cancellation of all NCAA spring sports brought Williams' collegiate career to a screeching halt.
That is, until this past Monday when the NCAA passed a resolution that would allow all seniors participating in spring sports another year of eligibility.
Looking for a place to play this summer, Williams hooked up with the Asheboro Copperheads and he'll be in a Texas Orange jersey for the upcoming Coastal Plain League season.
"It's been kinda hectic," Williams said of the last month. "I've been trying to stay even-keeled and have a positive attitude. Even with the quarantine, I'm staying sharp with baseball. I'm going to the field and staying active."
As a senior, Williams could have lost a lot more than just his senior season when the coronavirus caused the postponement of all games for the remainder of the season. But thanks to the recent ruling, Williams has the option to return to N.C. Central.
"I just wanted to keep a positive outlook on it," Williams said while awaiting word from the NCAA about an extra year for seniors. "Of course, all the seniors wanted that extra year because it was taken out of their hands. I've been keeping in touch with the guys, just making sure they weren't too down on what happened. When you get news like (the season being cancelled), it's easy to fold."
And when he heard this week the NCAA had indeed voted to give spring sports seniors another year of eligibility: "I was excited, that's what we were hoping for," Williams said. "I feel that's the only thing that would have been fair. We couldn't help what happened."
His career has been extraordinary at N.C. Central. He is a three-time All-MEAC selection and a 2017 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. He has the fourth-highest career batting average (.329, 208-633), slugging percentage and on base percentage in the modern era at NCCU. Williams holds the school record for most career hits with 208 and doubles with 43. He has scored 187 runs, which is second on the all-time list. He is tied for the sixth-most triples with six and is fifth in career home runs with 13. He is tied for the third-most RBIs with 111 and he has the most career total bases with 302. His 41 stolen bases are also in the top-five in school history.
"I take it day by day," Williams said. "I enjoy playing with the guys. "The coaching staff has allowed me to grow as a player and get better. Our coaches preach being better than what you were yesterday. It's been a long four years, but I have enjoyed every bit of it, even the 6 a.m. workouts."
This won't be the first year in the CPL for the 6-3, 210-pound outfielder from Northeast Guilford High School. Two summers ago, he played for the Holly Spring Salamanders. In 115 official at-bats, he hit .278 with 27 runs scored, five doubles, one home run and 11 RBIs. He stole seven bases.
"My first year in the CPL, it was kind of new to me," Williams said. "I had to get used to being around different guys and the fan support was more than I see at school and that was all new to me. I had to get adjusted to that. Me already knowing how it's going to be gives me an edge. I already know what all the dimensions are and I love the atmosphere and the surroundings."
Williams, who played for the Valley Blue Sox in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer, said he remembers his trip to Asheboro to play the Copperheads two summers ago. In that game, he was 3-for-3 with three runs scored for the Salamanders
His hard work and dedication have resulted in an incredible collegiate career. While most players need time to adjust to the collegiate level, even after a stellar four-year career in high school, Williams enjoyed a freshman season at N.C.Central few could match. After a prep career at Northeast Guilford, which saw him become a four-time all-conference selection, named All County, All-Area, All-State and All-USA, he hit the ground running at N.C. Central.
He was named a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American after a season in which he hit .351, setting a modern-era school record with 72 hits. He was a two-time weekly award recipient as he was named both MEAC Rookie and Player of the Week. He led the team in runs scored with 42, added 17 extra-base hits and tied the single-season record with 14 doubles. He recorded hitting streaks of nine and 13 games and he reached base safely in 17 straight games. He led the Eagles with 24 multi-hit games and finished in the top-10 in the MEAC in batting average and on base percentage at .427. He drove in 26 runs with one triple and two home runs.
"It was a blur really," Williams said about his freshman season. "When you come in, you feel you have to prove yourself, raise the ceiling a little higher. I didn't overthink anything and stuck to what I knew. I kept a positive outlook and made my mark."
As a sophomore, he hit .307 with a team-high 24 extra-base hits with 13 doubles, five triples and six home runs from the leadoff spot. He became the first Eagle to tally 100 total bases
As a junior, he earned First-Team All-MEAC honors after hitting .328 with a team-high 65 hits. He had 14 doubles and five home runs, leading the team with 42 RBIs. He scored 34 runs and finished in the top-10 in the MEAC in batting average and slugging percentage, and tied for third in total hits. Williams also ranked in the top-five in the MEAC in RBIs, doubles, home runs and was tied for fourth with 94 total bases. He was a perfect 14-for-14 in stolen base attempts and he finished with 19 multi-hit games.
This season, he was hitting .316 with 10 runs scored and seven RBIs in nine games.
"I still have the same goal and that's to hear my name called (at the draft) or maybe get a free-agent deal," Williams said. I feel like I have worked so hard and played so much baseball, the only end result for me would be to play professionally."
Williams should indeed live that dream.