This time last year, Arizona State junior Trevor Williams didn't know which team would select him or how high he would go. Several organizations had been in contact with him leading up to the Draft and several others had phoned on the night itself.
Secretly hoping he might land with his hometown Padres or one of the other 14 teams that play their Spring Training games in the Cactus League, a stone's throw from where he was attending college, Williams was caught off-guard when Andre Dawson announced him as the Marlins' third pick.
Looking back, Miami's 10th-ranked prospect would not have it any other way.
Williams scattered four hits while striking out three batters over eight scoreless innings Sunday afternoon in Class A Advanced Jupiter's 3-2 win over visiting Fort Myers.
"In my professional career, it is definitely my best start," Williams said. "It's in the top five or top 10 starts in my life. Overall, it went well. I had a lot of great plays made behind me, great defense. There were double plays and [third baseman Colin Moran] made a diving play on a ground ball. I was pounding the fastball for strikes and getting ground balls when I needed them."
The outing at Roger Dean Stadium lowered Williams' ERA to 2.36 and boosted his record to 6-4 in his second year of pro ball. It marked the fourth time in 13 Florida State League starts that Williams has pitched at least seven innings and the second time he has not allowed a run.
The 22-year-old right-hander retired his first seven batters and faced the minimum through four frames. He used a double play to work around Adam Brett Walker's leadoff single and second baseman Anthony Gomez's throwing error in the fifth, then induced another twin killing to erase Stephen Wickens' base hit in the seventh.
Mike Gonzales doubled to right field leading off the eighth, but Williams set down the next three batters to escape unharmed before turning a 3-0 lead over to his bullpen.
"My two-seam fastball was working and I was getting a lot of swings on my changeup, curveball and slider," he said. "The changeup was [the secondary pitch] giving me the most success. They had a lot of lefties in the lineup, so I was attacking them with my fastball in and then getting them out with the changeup away."
Williams got 13 ground-ball outs and faced one over the minimum as the Hammerheads turned three double plays. For the third time this season, he did not walk a batter.
"For a starting pitcher, strikeouts are great, but my philosophy of pitching is getting an out with every pitch I make," the San Diego native said. "You're supposed to go six innings and it's great if you can go seven or eight. I challenge myself to throw nine innings every time. I threw eight tonight, but it's not that I failed; I would have like to [go out for the ninth], but they said right away that was it and that the closer was coming in."
Williams' top start in the Minors caps an exciting 12 months for the 6-foot-3 hurler, who never would have guessed he would be relaxing on a Florida beach on the one-year anniversary of realizing his childhood dream.
"It was crazy that the Draft was a few days ago," said Williams, who was selected 44th overall in 2013. "I was sitting on Daytona Beach, reminiscing. If someone told me I would be sitting on Daytona Beach watching the Draft, I would not have believed them -- just watching the reactions [of the draftees], because me and my family had the same reactions. I'm grateful the Marlins took a chance on me.
"I knew they had four picks on the first day, but I didn't think they would take me. I'm from San Diego, so I hoped I might go to the Padres or -- because I'm at Arizona State -- that an Arizona Spring Training team would take me, so that I could stay local. Every pick that day, I was on edge. I was slated late-20s to the 70th pick, so I could have gone anywhere. I didn't get a phone call. I heard Andre Dawson call my name and I saw it go across the screen. [This year], the Marlins drafted my high school catcher, Brad Haynal, in the 18th round and I got to see his name go across."
Reid Redman gave up a two-run homer to Jorge Polanco in the ninth but retired the next three batters to record his third save.
Fort Myers starter Jason Wheeler (5-5) took the hard-luck loss. Carrying a three-hit shutout into the eighth, he allowed a run on four hits and a walk while striking out eight over seven-plus innings.
"[Wheeler] was throwing great and the game was moving fast. There were a lot of quick outs and a lot of ground balls," Williams said. "It makes baseball fun and it helps you make quality pitches."