Darren Williams grateful for time at UK

Published 4:30 pm Monday, June 19, 2023

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Darren Williams pitched four seasons at Eastern Kentucky University before transferring to Kentucky and pitching in nine games in 2023 before needing Tommy John surgery on his elbow when he was 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 29 innings.

The Mason County native was 4-2 this season with a 4.26 ERA in 63 1/3innings and was one of the main players Kentucky coach Nick Mingione used in UK’s march to the Super Regional.  Kentucky’s season ended at LSU, but Williams said it was still a “dream” year for him.

“I couldn’t even throw a baseball a year ago. And to be able to do what this team did, I’ll never forget it. Nobody picked us at all at the beginning of the year. And just the togetherness, the grittiness, unselfishness, like coach always talks about. It’s so true,” Williams said after the final game.  “That team loves each other, tight group, on and off the field. The dream season — what a Kentucky kid wants to do if he plays for Kentucky.”

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Williams played against Mingione and  UK when he was at Eastern Kentucky but joked he had “gotten so tight” with his coach over the last two seasons.

“One of the most influential men in my life, not just a good coach, a hell of a person. One of the best human beings I’ve ever met. And when I tore my elbow last year, he was just as emotional as a family member,” Williams said. So he means the world to me. I’m sure we’ll stay close forever.

“He lets us control the locker room. He’s not some crazy psycho coach that you’ve seen videos of before — genuine, honest to you. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve loved to play baseball for that man. I wish I could do it again. I’ve had a hell of a two years with him. I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”

Williams knows UK’s 40-win season will have a lasting impact on the program, but he says it started last year when UK lost three starting pitchers early in SEC play and somehow came back to make a run like no other No. 12 seed ever had in SEC Tournament play.

“We were down a whole weekend (pitching) rotation. In this league you don’t come back from that you don’t have any success after that. And what we did in the last month of the 2022 season, coming together with unselfishness, nobody cared what their role was anymore. They just wanted to win, somehow find a way to win,” Williams said.

“We made the best run a 12 seed has ever made in Hoover last year. That changes a program. And coach recruited specific kinds of guys for this year’s team out of the transfer portal last year who just wanted to win. All they cared about was winning.

“And that’s what it takes in baseball. It’s a team game. You need one through 27 to buy in, not care about roles, just want to win for the guy next to you. That’s how we won 40 games this year.”