Corey Williams said he “never felt anything so painful.”
An instant before that, the only thing that went through the mind of Vanderbilt’s redshirt-freshman pitcher was to get an out. And he did – despite the fact that his right kneecap was shattered.
Williams was hit with a line drive off the bat of Florida’s Austin Maddox in the bottom of the seventh inning of the Commodores’ 7-3 loss on Saturday. While on his stomach with his right leg off the ground, he still managed to flip the ball close enough to the bag that first baseman Aaron Westlake scooped it up and tagged Maddox for the out.
“I think it was just complete instinct and competitiveness in every shape and form,” coach Tim Corbin said. “He didn’t reach for his knee, he reached for the ball.”
The presence of mind and perseverance he displayed seems likely to make the Huntsville, Ala., native a YouTube sensation.
“Right after I got back from the hospital, (Corbin) showed me the video,” Williams said. “He said it was one of the most amazing things he’d ever seen.
“I was just trying to get an out.”
Watch the YouTube video of the play
Williams returned to Nashville on Sunday morning, hours before Vanderbilt defeated Florida 7-0 in the finale of the three-game Southeastern Conference series against the Gators. The Commodores had lost the first two of the weekend.
“My message to the team on (Sunday) morning was that we needed some competitive toughness, the same kind that Corey showed in making that play,” Corbin said.
Williams is scheduled to undergo surgery early Monday morning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The kneecap will be reconstructed (“there’s two big pieces, and some little pieces,” Williams said) with the help of some hardware.
He expects to make a full recovery and – eventually – to resume his baseball career.
“It pretty much hurts all the time, but if I keep it elevated and still, it’s not too bad,” Williams said Sunday afternoon. “Plus, they’ve got me on some pain medication.”
Williams is second among Vanderbilt pitchers with 12 appearances – all in relief – this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA, 17 strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings pitched.
He was redshirted in 2009 following a record-setting career at Madison Academy in Huntsville.
“I feel like when I’m ready to go again – it probably will be after this season and the summer – I’ll be plenty prepared,” Williams said. “I won’t be nervous at all.”