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Williams and Williams becoming new law firm for Lady Patriots softball

March 9, 2016

By CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Sometimes the past is just that: the past.

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) softball players Abby and Hailey Williams are finding more in common with each other than just their last names. The former Virginia High School League Piedmont District rivals with Bassett and Magna Vista High Schools are quickly becoming a recognizable pair on the left side of the infield for the Lady Patriots.

Not only that, they are packing quite the punch at the top of the batter order, as well.

“I think in college it’s a different mindset and you’re more mature. Now that we’re together, you don’t think about the past,” said Abby Williams, who is playing competitive softball for the first time in nearly two years. “We just play as one now and it’s not really about rivalry with the schools.”

Better known as Williams squared, the duo squared up a slew of big hits Saturday (Mar. 5) and Sunday (Mar. 6) in four games — a home doubleheader vs. Surry and a pair of games against CCBC Catonsville and Pitt Community College at Richard Bland College. The infielders combined to hit .522 with four doubles and two home runs over the weekend.

In nine games this season, Hailey Williams is batting .448 with a home run, two doubles, nine walks, 10 runs and five RBI out of the leadoff spot. Abby Williams has a pair of homers, five doubles and a team-high 10 RBI in the No. 3 spot of the lineup. The combination of power, speed and contact at the top of the order is something first-year Patriots coach Robbi Campbell said is a blessing.

“Hailey is my table setter and gets on any way she can, and then when she gets down in the count she is very good at still hitting the ball solid,” Campbell said. “She’s really picked up her game over the last six games and has become a real leader. Then you get down to Abby in the three hole and she’s got power and good balance, as well as being a good base runner. She has a smooth swing that provides power.”

Hailey hit her first career home run to lead off the opening game against Surry on Saturday. Her nine walks are just one example of the various ways she gets on base. She was a No. 3 or 4 hitter in high school, and even last season for the Patriots, she was featured in the meat of the order. The adjustment she said to the leadoff spot brought upon more responsibility.

“I never led off until this year and honestly I felt like I had to step up and get on base and be a leader,” Williams said. “You have to have a good on-base percentage, whatever you have to do to get on. I feel like I have to do more and if I don’t get on it messes up the whole lineup.”

As for Abby, driving in her infield teammate could become the norm this season. She brought her home with her second long ball of the season in the third inning of the first game against Surry. The third baseman also went deep in team’s opening series against NCAA, Division III Guilford College. Her two doubles against Catonsville hit off the top of the fence and would’ve cleared with ease at Martin Field, said Campbell.

Williams had the tail end of her high school career cut short because of rehabilitation following knee surgery during her junior year. Hailey said it’s been remarkable to see her new teammate perform as well as she has after losing important years of her high school playing days.

“It was surreal to get to play again,” said Abby of returning to the field. “It was nice to get out there and then hit a home run our first game. It was nice to do it again.”

While the pair works hand in hand at the plate, it also stabilizes the left side of the diamond. Defense has been Campbell’s main focus and shifting players around was part of the early season process. He originally had Hailey at second and said he made the move to shift her to shortstop after making an over-the-shoulder catch ranging to the outfield in a game against Spartanburg Methodist.

Moving the players to the left side, he said, helped shape the defense in the manner he was looking for.

“I have moved a lot of players around this season and each have been up for the challenge,” Campbell said. “Abby has played some third in high school but it’s been a while. She was up to the challenge and it’s paying off. They want to do anything to be successful.”

Abby was a shortstop in high school but also played third base depending on the team’s rotation at pitcher. Since having her surgery, the freshman said spotting up at the hot corner is the best situation at PHCC. Campbell added that Abby has a strong arm and good reaction speed, making her a natural fit at third base.

“Third (base) is easier on me because playing short there is so much movement back and forth,” Williams said. “Third is more of a quick reaction and not as much moving around on my knee, and Hailey is quick and can get around.”

The newly formed teammates also were rivals during travel softball, beyond the Magna Vista-Bassett duels. Abby played for the Blue Ridge Bombers out of Eden, N.C. while Hailey played for her high school coach Brian Brinegar and the Southside Sliders. Both admitted they weren’t friends before coming to PHCC but have since grown a bond and admiration for each other’s style of play.

A change of scenery and desire to achieve the same goals is all it takes in sports to bond former enemies. The Williams’ are a perfect example of how the past doesn’t always have to dictate the future.

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