Riverland baseball team gets big play from the ‘Aussie’

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When Kyal Williams decided he wanted to get serious about baseball, he knew he had to come play in America.

After Williams, who is from South Australia, did a bit of online searching, it wasn’t long before Riverland Community College head coach Scott Koenigs was contacting him. The two exchanged e-mails and Koenigs convinced Williams and his mom that RCC was a good place for him to play.

“It was kind of a random thing. A scout from over there sent me a video of him and I liked what I saw,” Koenigs said. “His mom wanted to make sure he was comfortable and we’d take care of him and he’s been great for us so far.”

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Williams started his RCC career with a bang when he pitched a shutout against No. 10 Brookdale down in Florida and he’s off to a 3-0 start on the mound with a 2.756 ERA. He’s hitting .475 with two home runs, four doubles, 16 RBIs, and 13 runs for the No. 9 rankedBlue Devils (14-2 overall).

Williams said he looked up RCC on-line and the school was very appealing to him. While he enjoyed playing baseball in Australia, the decision was easy for him to come to the U.S.

“Australia’s a lot smaller as far as baseball goes, and I figured college ball in America was my best bet (to get better),” he said. “It’s harder competition and you get a chance to prove yourself. If you play well you can get signed to a bigger school.”

Williams is already on track to play beyond RCC as some bigger schools are already asking about him. Besides his pitching and hitting, Williams can play first base, third base, and catcher.

“His versatility alone will make him very valuable for a lot of four-year schools,” Koenigs said. “I think he’ll have quite a few choices (about where to play) after next year.”

Williams said catching gives him good insight about how to pitch when he gets on the mound, and he’s not too concerned about finding an every day position at this point in his career.

“When I’m catching, I sort of see where to place the ball better and I can see which pitches they can hit,” he said. “Everything’s good at this stage and I just love playing. Later we’ll see which position I should concentrate on.”

Williams, who is from Adelaide, which has a population of 1.3 million and is the fifth-biggest city in Australia, has fit in quite well with a very tight Blue Devil squad. He spends a lot of time with his teammates, who simply call him ‘Aussie.’ They give him a little recognition when they play “Land Down Under” by Men at Work during his at-bats in home games.

“I have a bit of a laugh when I hear that,” Williams said. “It’s good fun.”

For the most part, Williams said that the U.S. isn’t that different from his home country. But the winter took some getting used to.

“It was a bit of a shock to stay inside and to not be able go out and throw the ball,” he said.

Williams is the second player that Koenigs has brought in from overseas. The Blue Devils had a player from Sweden play for them five years ago.

“Both guys are outstanding and both are great baseball guys you love to coach,” Koenigs said. “They’re hear to play baseball and get an education and they’ve both been so positive for the program.”

Koenigs said that Williams doesn’t mind RCC’s training schedule, which starts in September and calls for a lot of weight lifting and running in the offseason.

“He wanted me to get after him and he wanted to be the best baseball player he can be,” Koenigs said. “I run a pretty strict program and that’s what he was looking for. He came here to get better and that’s what he’s done.”

With an attitude like that, the ‘Aussie’ could end up doing some big things for RCC, which is hoping to get back to the Junior College World Series this year.