When Oklahoma (44-20) takes on top-ranked Rice (53-10) in the the NCAA Super Regional in Houston, Texas this weekend, one of the key players for the Sooners will be sophomore catcher Jackson Williams.
It is not his .322 batting average that matters most to the Sooners, but rather his ability to handle the OU pitching staff. Sunny Golloway and OU Pitching Coach Fred Corral turned the pitch calling over to Williams during the Big 12 Tournament against OSU, and since then the game has been his.
Williams will once again call pitches against Rice, and as he was studying the batting charts of the Owls he talked with OUInsider.com about the task ahead this weekend.
JH: How are preparations going for Rice coming off a very emotional regional in Norman?
JW: "We didn't have any problem re-charging our batteries for this week. It was an emotional weekend for us. It took a lot out of us to come back and beat a team twice that we had lost two twice during the regular season. This week we are going to look to get rested up. We got a day off on Tuesday and kind of got our mind back together. We then had two great practices and are ready to play the game.
"I think we will bounce back real well. We are the kind of team that can do that. We can come out and play emotional games and come back the next day and start over. We have had some ninth inning thrillers this year for sure, some comeback victories, and we have always come off those playing really well."
JH: School is out, so is that helping you with your preparation now that you are thinking about baseball all the time?
JW: "It is a lot better without school, because you have a lot more free time to get rested up. It is a lot easier on your mind. You can think baseball all the time and not have to worry about school work. We talk and think baseball all the time, and that isn't any different when school is going on,because at this level baseball is going to be on your mind.
" That happens more often than not, especially where we are at in the season right now. We are looking at a tough series with Rice. We are playing them at home and they are a good ball club. You have to be thinking baseball all the time to beat a team like Rice."
JH: You split with Rice during the regular season, so what is your take on the Owls?
JW: "They are a good ball club, no doubt. We are really going to have to minimize our mistakes that we make and take advantage of the mistakes they will make. That is the kind of series that it is going to be. It is going to be a tight one because I don't think it is going to be any kind of high scoring series. Both clubs have good pitching going into the weekend and it is just going to be who capitalizes on the mistakes, and who makes the fewest mistakes as a team. That team is going to win."
JH: You faced their ace, Eddie Degerman (12-1, 1.67, 113 innings, 150 K's), in Houston and lost that game (8-2). You have seen quite a bit of their pitching, so what is your take on their pitching staff?
JW: "He is a great pitcher, no doubt. He is the kind of guy that the first time you see him it is tough to hit him. He has a very unorthodox delivery and his pitches are tough to pick up. I think the second time around we are going to be a little better with him.
"He is the kind of guy you really have to work and hit your pitch. He is the kind of guy who can get you chasing with the kind of stuff that he has and his deception. You have to be patient with him and look for your pitch. When you get it you need to hit it and make sure you hit it."
JH: You have been calling the pitches lately, so what advantage has that given you and the pitching staff?
JW: "I love calling my own game. I, for one, feel that it keeps the tempo of the game up and keeps the guys in the field on their toes. I think from time-to-time having the coach call the game from the dugout slows the game down a little bit.
"I feel real comfortable doing it. I did it all through high school and coming here and doing it keeps me in the game for sure. I pick up on hitters and try to read their body language and what they are trying to do at the plate. That helps me read what kind of pitches to throw, and what I think we can get them out on."
JH: Who is the most head strong pitcher on your staff when it comes to you calling the game and him wanting to throw what he wants to throw?
JW: "I think Steve (Guerra) and Daniel (McCutchen) can be that way when they don't want to throw a pitch. There are times that I really feel like it is a pitch that we can get them out on. But if I think it is not something that the hitter is looking for and we can surprise him, then I will throw the signal down two or three times. If they shake me off more than twice then I will go out and talk to them and let them call it, because ultimately they have to feel good about the pitch they are throwing. They have to believe in the pitch they are throwing. If we end up going with the pitch they want, then I remind them of pitch location and maybe speed and then we go from there."
JH: What is your take on the Rice offense and how your pitching matches up with them?
JW: "I think we match-up well. We have two guys in Steve and 'Cutch' who can go out and throw a lot of innings. They are guys who are good at keeping guys off-balance, especially Steve. I think the match-up will be really good. We came out in that mid-week game and held them in check. They are a good ball club, no doubt, but they have some guys in their line-up who are young and can be kept off-balance and get them out."
Williams taking charge behind the plate
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