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Dana Hills High School senior Luke Williams is running his way into the record books
By Steve Breazeale
When Luke Williams reaches base, the tempo of the game shifts to his preferred speed.
The senior shortstop can take a slow, casual two-step lead, inviting the opposing pitcher to notice the large gap between him and the first base bag. Williams knows either a pick-off attempt or a hurried fastball to the plate is likely coming next.
Williams can take a sizeable lead then dart to his right during the pitcher’s delivery, plant his foot and scurry back. A fake, aimed at disrupting the hurler’s concentration and tempo.
Other times he will time his jump and just flat out run, testing the link between pitcher and catcher to see who is faster. As other teams in Orange County have learned this season, Williams more often than not comes out on top in that battle.
“I like to cause a lot of havoc on the basepaths … Every time I get on first I just try to steal a bag, help the team,” Williams said.
The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-bound Williams has been making an impact this season with his keen batting eye and above average base stealing ability. He recently broke the Dana Hills High School career record in stolen bases and has been successful on 18 of 19 attempts this year. His career stolen base total now stands at 48. He’s stolen three bases in one game five times and in 2014 set a school record for most runs in a season with 36.
Williams began to notice his speed and athleticism while playing in Little League. From the moment he can remember being able to steal a base, he was honing the craft.
As he entered high school Williams did not stick to just baseball. He played for the Dolphins football team and is currently on the track and field team, where he competes in the 100-meter dash and the 4×100 relay. Both sports, Williams said, helped him build up his trademark speed and keep him in shape year-round.
The Dolphins are a veteran team that likes to run and be aggressive in doing so. That’s why, at the start of the season, head coach Tom Faris essentially gave the top of the batting order a permanent green light on when to steal. As a team, they have stolen a combined 55 bases on 63 attempts, better than an 87 percent success rate.
There are times when the coach has to reel his players in and tell them not to try and steal, but for Williams, Faris said the “go” sign is on around 90 percent of the time.
“He’s got such a big baseball sense of the game that I trust that he’s going to go when it’s appropriate for him to go. He’s not a guy that’s just going out to get stolen bases to break a record or to rub it in,” Faris said. “He knows when he can take a base so you know what? I don’t have to give him a sign anymore.”
As of April 2, Williams’ on-base percentage stood at a healthy .500. With Williams on base that often, his presence alone is enough to affect the quality of pitches his teammates see behind him in the lineup.
Against Roosevelt High in the final game of the Anaheim Lions Tournament on April 1, Williams led off with a walk in the bottom of the first inning. With No. 2 hitter Zach Wolf at the plate, Williams crept out and got a big lead, then darted back to first on a throw over. The next pitch offered to Wolf was rushed, left up in the zone, and headed right down the middle of the plate. Wolf didn’t miss and laced a single into center field. Marrick Crouse and Shawn Kany would later bring Williams and Wolf home with a pair of hits and just like that, the Dolphins had a 2-0 lead.
“It’s good when they’re thinking about you (as a runner) because they’re not thinking about the hitter,” Williams said. “Sometimes they won’t throw strikes or they’ll leave one up. We call it the one-two punch.”
In the game against Roosevelt, Williams added his name to the Dolphins record books not by a feat of speed, but with his bat.
Williams hit two home runs, including a grand slam, slapped a double and recorded a school-record eight RBIs in a 14-2 win.
That day the game came to Williams as it has all season—at his desired speed.