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KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Dana Hills' Luke Williams, a standout baseball player for the Dana Hills baseball program who is known for his overall leadership and baserunning ability. He has broken the school record for career steals and leads off for the team this season.

Dana Hills' Williams is O.C.'s top diamond thief

STAFF WRITER

DANA POINT - It’s a safe bet to say Luke Williams will not forget April Fool’s Day for quite some time.

No, the senior shortstop didn’t get pranked – not on the ball field, anyway. He wasn’t joking around against Roosevelt either.

The senior belted two home runs, drove home a school record eight RBI and fired two shutout innings on the mound in which he struck out five of the seven batters he faced.

The Dolphins defeated Roosevelt, 14-2, in their final game of the Anaheim Lions Tournament.

“It was probably one of my better days,” Williams said. “I was seeing the ball well.”

“I haven’t been hitting as well as I’ve wanted to, so it was good to have a day like that,” he said.

A five-tool player, Williams has made himself known by causing fits for opposing pitchers with his constant aggressiveness on the basepaths.

Because of his work, the Dolphins have one of the more potent offenses in the county this year.

Williams will be penned in as the best baserunner in program history after he wraps up his senior season.

His base running IQ is among the best in the county.

A catalyst batting lead-off, Williams has 18 stolen bases on 19 attempts this season and his 48 stolen bases already have broken a 29-year record for career steals at Dana Hills.

His four runs on Tuesday boosted his total to 71 career runs at the school, tying the all-time mark held by Jake Hurst after the 2006 season.

He’s also on pace to break his own record of 36 runs in a single season, set last year.

“I like to utilize my speed, that’s a big part of my game,” Williams said. “Every time I’m on first, I like to try and swipe a bag. (Coach) gives us free range and he trusts that we will steal a bag in the right situation, but he’ll also tell us when to shut it down.”

Having Williams on the basepaths adds an extra element for opposing pitchers, who have to keep constant attention at first base to be ready for his move.

That attention leads to better pitches for his teammates at the plate.

As a team, the Dolphins are batting .313 and the two men behind Williams – Zach Wolf and Jay Schuyler – are batting a combined .330.

Schuyler has broken the school record for career doubles with 31.

In a recent South Coast League game against El Toro, Williams was checked at first base seven times during one of Wolf’s at-bats.

“Whenever (Williams) gets on, we say its an automatic double, so I take a couple pitches for him to take a bag,” Wolf said. “He keeps the energy in the dugout, he doesn’t let us goof off in practice either.”

Trying to keep Williams off the basepaths proves just as difficult. Through 18 games, he carries a .411 average and has reached base in half his plate appearances.

He has more runs scored (26) than base hits (23) this season. Since the beginning of his junior season, he’s stolen 44 bases on 46 attempts.

“He’s got a baseball sense of the game that I trust that he’s going to go when it’s appropriate,” Dolphins coach Tom Faris said. “He’s not doing it to break records or rub it in. It’s baseball savvy and he knows when he can take a base, so I don’t have to give him the sign anymore.”

Williams’ next run scored will break another school record. He committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in September and Faris believes the Mustangs are getting a steal next year.

More like plenty of them.

Williams is a second generation baseball player and his baserunning savvy was born in Little League, where he loved to apply pressure on opposing pitchers.

He’s been swiping bags since he was first allowed.

“It’s always been a part of my game, my whole life,” Williams said of his speed. “I just love causing havoc out there. Speed kills.”

But Williams’ contributions aren’t limited to his offense. He has also filled in numerous defensive positions for the Dolphins in the past two seasons.

Last season, Faris had him start at catcher until an injury to then-shortstop Kayman Koen prompted the coach to move him to the infield. His appearance on the mound on Tuesday was the first since his sophomore season.

“I kind of forced him to catch and he stepped up,” Faris said. “He doesn’t necessarily like catching, but he did it for the team. When you have the fastest kid back there catching, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but he’s so athletic.”

If Williams wasn’t considered a five tool player before, his April 1 showing changes that perception. In addition to his speed, he’s clubbed a team-high four home runs, and after his big RBI day, he’s now one shy of the team lead with 17.

Faris believes his abilities will carry him far.

“One of the questions is his arm strength and I think it’s deceiving,” Faris said. “When he gets a ball in the hole at shortstop, the ball doesn’t have to go across the infield as fast as some of the other guys throw it because his footwork is so quick.”

But his biggest threat remains in his baserunning. Opposing coaches, like Aliso Niguel’s Craig Hanson, center their defensive game plan around trying to keep him off the bases.

The Wolverines are one of few who have had partial success this season.

It helps that he runs track for the Dolphins, participating on the 4-by-100 meter relay team and the 100-meters.

His relay team took first at a dual meet against Mission Viejo on March 26.

Williams played football for Dana Hills, but he opted not to play this past season so he could focus on baseball.

He committed to Cal Poly SLO when more prestigious suitors like UCLA and UCI also offered.

Williams also passed up an opportunity to join teammates Louis Raymond and Marrick Crouse at the University of San Francisco.

When he’s on the bases, he seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. As it turns out, he’s applied that to his college decision as well.

“They’re setting a high standard for our class and I like the location. It’s beautiful up there,” Williams said. “I really liked the coaching there. They want to develop hitters and it catered more toward my style.”

Contact the writer: 949-492-5135 or npercy@ocregister.com


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