Nick Williams a bright spot on Riders’ road trip

by Dan M | Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2015

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By Alex Vispoli
Avispoli@ridersbaseball.com
After a 2-4 home stand, the RoughRiders took a small step forward away from the Metroplex with a 3-3 road trip that took the team to Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas.
In a bit of déjà vu, Frisco won the first two games at the Travelers by identical 2-0 scores.  One week earlier, it was Arkansas that took the first two games of the season at Dr Pepper Ballpark by 8-4 finals in each contest.  The Riders again scored two runs in the series finale, but the Travelers belted two home runs off the Frisco bullpen to earn a comeback 4-2 victory and avoid a sweep.
The RoughRiders opened their series with the Naturals on Sunday with a convincing 7-3 win for the team’s fifth victory in six games.  The two games that followed, however, we disappointments, as Frisco was two-hit in a 2-0 shutout defeat the next night and then dropped the series finale 8-4, foiling the team’s bid for a third consecutive series victory.
Other than the first game against Northwest Arkansas, the Riders’ offense was quiet throughout the trip and the team finds itself sixth in the eight-team Texas League in both batting average (.237) and runs per game (3.4).  But with more than 91 percent of the schedule still to be played, Frisco manager Joe Mikulik is not worried yet about his team’s ability to put runs on the scoreboard.
“It’s just a matter of getting our feet wet with the offense and getting some runs scored,” said Mikulik.  “I’m pleased with the approaches we’ve had.  We’ve hit some balls hard and we’re trying to do the best we can to get some good pitches to hit.  We’re staying aggressive and I’m very confident that it’ll come around.”
While the team’s offense as a whole has not yet matched the high expectations in place, several individual players have gotten off to excellent starts at the plate.
Chief among those is left fielder Nick Williams, who through April 22 was hitting .356 with two home runs, three doubles, six runs batted in and a .951 OPS.  At press time, he ranked seventh in the TL in batting average, tied for second in hits (16) and tied for fourth in total bases (25).  Williams had a 4-for-4 game in the road trip opener (the fourth four-hit game of his career) and, after an 0-for-4 game on Opening Day, has reached base in 11 straight games (the longest streak in the TL this season).
Williams has always had the talent to perform at the plate and has long been regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the Rangers’ farm system.  The former second round draft pick out of Ball High School in Galveston entered the season as a consensus top-ten prospect in the Texas organization, but his two-week stint in Double-A at the end of last season did not go well (.226/.250/.290, no home runs) and some worried that his raw skills would not translate to higher levels.
While it is still early in the season, Williams’ hot start has assuaged those fears.  The RoughRiders’ hope now is that the rest of the lineup can match his production and get Frisco’s offense on track as we near the end of the season’s first month.

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