Two weeks ago, Bret Williams and the Penn State Harrisburg baseball team were at Myrtle Beach playing its regular season schedule and maintaining its winning record.
Williams, a senior, was just beginning to heat up during his final campaign. The Mount Carmel Area graduate had five homers, 17 RBIs, 14 runs scored and was hitting for a .472 average during his team’s 12 games this season.
His success during the premature regular season should come as no surprise, as the senior outfielder came into this season chasing Division III’s all-time record in hits and home runs. Last season, Williams was a finalist for the D-III national player of the year, led the nation in hits, runs and ranked second in home runs and RBIs while leading the Lions to its second national tournament berth in program history.
Returning as the program’s all-time hits leader and a roster that comprised of 17 upperclassmen (nine seniors, eight juniors), the Lions had high hopes this spring.
“As a team, our goal was to get back to the Division III national tournament and get to the World Series,” Williams said.
The senior added that a personal goal was to become D-III’s all-time leader in hits and home runs, which was attainable.
Counting the Lions’ 12 games this season, Williams is 95 hits shy of catching the all-time mark of 327 and needs 24 more homers to reach the career-record of 70.
Unfortunately, Williams’ pursuit of history and Penn State Harrisburg’s hunt for a spot in the World Series is temporarily on hold.
On the way home from their annual spring break trip, the team bus stopped to eat when head coach Ryan Brown and his staff requested a team meeting. In that meeting, players were informed the spring season had been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It was shocking. We saw everything else was getting canceled, but thought there was a chance they’d let us play,” Williams said. “We were just at a loss for words. It was very unexpected.”
Though this season is officially a no-go, the 2021 Penn State Harrisburg squad may have plenty of the same faces on their team bus when returning home from their spring break trip next March — including Williams.
NCAA Divisions II and III have already granted spring athletes another year of eligibility while the Division I Council Committee already agreed to some sort of eligibility relief but will vote on the matter — as well as other issues surrounded by the coronavirus — on March 30.
Williams said a handful of his teammates already said they will be taking the extra year as they need a few classes to complete their academic programs, but his decision still sits in limbo with the MLB draft. Draft day is tentatively scheduled from July 24 to 27 and the coal region native said he has talked to a few teams about the possibility of being drafted, so he will be making his decision on whether or not to return to college for another year by seeing what happens in the draft.
Prior to the cancellation of the season, Williams planned to return to the Allentown Railers this summer until the draft. The Railers won the ACBL Championship in 2019, but their season, which was originally slated to begin May 30, is no longer guaranteed.
“Right now, you can’t really plan anything with what’s been going on,” Williams said in regards to his future plans.
Though uncertainty still looms for Williams after his would-be senior season was cut short, it appears likely that baseball still remains in his future. The Mount Carmel native is still training to get better despite the current conditions in order to get better in a sport he always felt passionate about.
“Baseball has always been the sport for me. There’s just something about that one-on-one battle with the pitcher I’ve always enjoyed,” he said.