CARY, N.C. -- Will Albertson’s numbers this year have been absolutely crazy.
Kids might call ’em sick or maybe even stupid. Barney Fife would call ’em big. The fact is, that’s exactly what they’ve been.
His batting average coming into this week’s NCAA Division II Baseball Championship was a slick .473, best in all of DII.
He had 107 hits.
Twenty-six home runs.
Ninety RBI.All are school and South Atlantic Conference records, and they’ve been more than enough for Albertson to be named the DII Player of the Year. He added a hit here this week in Catawba’s opening win against Wilmington, two in a victory against Henderson State and one more in a stunning 11-2 loss to Cal Poly Pomona Thursday.
Albertson’s was one of only four the Indians had in the defeat, their first of the tournament. The two teams meet again Friday to determine which will advance to meet Tampa in Saturday’s finals.
Albertson is in his first year with Catawba after an in-state transfer from Campbell. He had a good year there last year, batting .286 with twenty-eight RBI in fifty-three games.
The season was a decent one, but didn’t provide the kind of spectacular fireworks that 2015 has seen.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I played about every day,” Albertson said. “I was playing outfield a lot. I didn’t catch very much. I couldn’t really complain too much, because I was still in the lineup. I wanted to catch, and I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to there.”
He enjoyed his time at Campbell, growing he says as both a person and player. Yet even as tough as catching can be, that’s where he wanted to play.
Luckily for Catawba head coach Jim Gantt, he needed a catcher at the very same time Albertson needed a school. Catawba is about an hour’s drive from Randleman … he could catch on a regular basis … the young man was sold.
Success came almost immediately. He is a special player, and Gantt knows it.
“We would not be here without him,” Gantt said. “Obviously, his numbers stand out, but he’s such a team leader, humble. He’s a team person first. He’s not worried about his own accolades at all, and that’s exactly what we need with our team.
“We’re not built on a lot of high-profile players. We have to have team guys. He fits the mold for that perfectly.”
What’s interesting is that while Gantt says Catawba wouldn’t have made it to Cary without Albertson, Albertson also insists that he wouldn’t have had the kind of numbers he’s enjoyed this season without his teammates.
That, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a team player.
“I couldn’t have done it without the guys around me, the guys I hit in front of and behind in the lineup,” Albertson said. “You can’t drive in runs if nobody’s on base, and Blake Houston’s on base it seems like every time I come up.
“I hit in front of T.J. Wharton. He puts up some power numbers, and guys in our conference are terrified of him. They have to pitch to me, and I was getting good pitches to hit. I was just fortunate enough to do something with them.”
Because he was new in the conference, opposing pitchers had never seen Albertson before and weren’t sure how to pitch to him. They still aren’t.
What must it be like to have that kind of ability, to get a hit nearly half the times he comes to the plate? Surely, the ball must look like a beach ball to Albertson as it comes to the plate?
“I just try to hit the ball hard all the time,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in having consistent, hard contact. I don’t try to hit a home run every time. I just try to hit the ball hard somewhere. I’m just fortunate enough this year to be able to do that. I feel confident when I walk up to the plate that I’m about to put a good swing on the ball.”
Put up the kind of stats that Albertson has this year, and people are going to start talking about the future. The Major League Baseball amateur draft is coming up quickly, but Albertson says he’s not worried about that right now.
There are more pressing issues to contend with, like how to overcome a loss like Catawba suffered here Thursday and against the very same team that handed it to them.
Whatever happens with the draft, happens with the draft.
“That’s not for me to decide,” Albertson said. “It’s for other people to decide about getting drafted, coming back or whatever. I’m not really worried about it. I’m just worried about winning games here right now. I’m looking forward to my senior year at Catawba next year. I’m not really worried about that at all. I’m just looking forward to trying to win this thing and coming back to do it again next year.”