The motion is so smooth, the mechanics so polished, it sometimes appears as if Darien baseball’s Henry Williams is pitching with no effort at all.
Make no mistake, however. When Williams throws a pitch, it’s always with a purpose.
“With how smooth he is, it might not appear that he’s actually throwing that hard because it looks effortless, but the ball pops,” Darien head coach Mike Scott said. “He gets on top of that ball and it’s on you before you know it. His mechanics are so so refined for somebody of his age.”
Darien indeed has a true ace, and Duke University will be getting one next year when Williams heads to Durham, N.C., to play for the Blue Devils’ baseball team. The Wave senior co-captain, who had verbally committed to the school before his junior year, made it official when he signed his National Letter of Intent in November.
Playing for Duke has been a life-long dream for Williams.
“I got into it the same way everybody does — with the basketball team,” Williams said. “When I got to the school for my visit, it was just the perfect fit. I could see myself there even without baseball, so that was big.
“Everybody knows about Duke basketball, and with baseball, they were a game away from the college World Series last year. I can’t wait to get there and hopefully contribute to what they’re doing.”
What Williams has accomplished at Darien is remarkable. He made the varsity club as a sophomore, entering the pitching rotation and taking over as the starting shortstop.
Last year, he pitched at an elite level, compiling at ERA of 0.23 over 31 1/3 innings. He was 5-2 with a 0.79 WHIP and 49 strikeouts.
He did it all while appearing cool and calm on the mound.
“A lot of guys have told me that (about the smooth delivery), but there is a lot of effort that’s going into it; it’s not like it’s easy,” Williams said with a smile. “When I was a sophomore pitching varsity, I didn’t have the ability to just blow it by kids like I can in some spots now. It was about location and not just going all-out because they could hit it. As I get older, I want to implement that and mix it in with throwing harder.”
“He lives off his fastball but he’s got a good change-up, a hard slider, and a curveball that he mixes in every once in a while,” Scott said. “He can throw them all for strikes, and that’s so key at this stage. He and his dad worked so hard on his mechanics and making sure he’s approaching things the correct way.”
His father, David has the experience as well, having played Div. I baseball for Davidson College.
The Wave is 21-9 since the start of last season has two FCIAC championships in three years after not winning one for 35 years.
This year, Darien has won four straight after dropping its first two games. On Friday, Williams fired a one-hitter at Greenwich as the Wave won 10-0 in five innings.
“He’s been a major part of our success,” Scott said. “We wouldn’t be where we are this year and even last year without him and what he brings as a leader and a teammate that the other guys respect and look up to. He’s a special talent and he’s going to go a long way.”
“What Coach Scott has done here is incredible,” Williams said. “We had that one group that did it in 2016 and they really started this. My sophomore year, we lost in the semifinals and then last year we were hungry and won it. There’s the mentality we have to get to work here (in practice) and understand what we need to do to will ball games.”
For Williams, one of the more memorable games from Darien’s title run came in last year’s FCIAC quarterfinals when he squared off against Trumbull ace Ben Fero. Fero pitched a no-hitter, but the Wave won 1-0 with an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Williams nearly had a no-hitter himself, allowing only a first-inning single while walking none and striking out 10. He needed just 81 pitches to complete the game.
“Last year with Ben was probably the most fun but also the most annoying game I’ve ever played,” Williams said. “I’m doing whatever I can to help my team win and he’s out there one-upping me.”
When he gets to Duke to play for head coach Chris Pollard, Williams will be focusing on pitching, meaning his days as a shortstop are limited to the rest of this season. It will take some getting used to.
“I love pitching,” Williams said. “I’ll miss playing shortstop and hitting but pitching is something I understand and I love to do. My dad was a pitcher in college and it’s something that I get. It’s really fun, sometimes it’s tough, but I love it.”
For now, Williams is wrapping up his high school career as one of just two Darien players — Mac McLean is the other — who have varsity experience. They’ve taken on leadership roles on the younger team as co-captains alongside fellow senior Glen Fay.
“I love the leadership role and Mac and Glen (Fay) have done a great job of embracing it too,” Williams said. “The new guys are doing a great job. These guys are really new to the program — a lot of them were JV last year. They’ve stepped up big time.”
When his final pitch is thrown at Darien, Williams will have a lot of great memories.
“There’s so much to remember,” Williams said. “Obviously, winning last year was great, but what I’ll remember most are the relationships I’ve made on this team — it’s unlike any others sports team I’ve been on.”