Williams extends hit streak to 30 games

D-backs prospect keeps run going with single in ninth for Silver Hawks

Justin Williams is batting .381 with 32 runs scored in 48 games across two levels this season. (Missoula Osprey)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | August 6, 2014 1:04 AM ET

Justin Williams was eager to make the South Bend roster out of Spring Training, but the D-backs wanted to see a little more consistency out of him before he made the jump to the Midwest League.

Four months and a .381 batting average and Williams could be held back no longer.

The 18-year-old delivered an RBI single in the ninth inning Tuesday night to extend his hitting streak to 30 games in Class A South Bend's 2-1 loss at Bowling Green.

It was Williams' second game with the Silver Hawks this season after he was promoted from Rookie-level Missoula over the weekend.

"His work ethic is second to none," said South Bend manager Mark Haley, who had Williams for a couple of weeks at the end of last season and also got to see him in Spring Training. "Put that in combination with his skill level and his capabilities are endless."

Williams was hitless his first three at-bats Tuesday, but he reached the 30-game plateau with a two-out run-scoring single to left field in the ninth inning. Representing the tying run, he was stranded at second base when Fidel Pena flied to center to end the game.

The 6-foot-2 left fielder tripled home a run in his Midwest League debut Monday night after recording a hit in each of his last 28 Pioneer League games with Missoula.

"I tell you what, I commend the Missoula staff and especially [hitting coach] Vince Harrison, who worked with him offensively," Haley said. "He is much more consistent and he looks like he's really found out who he is.

"I've seen a big difference in his game in the short time he's been here. The short time he spent in Missoula and extended spring training, they've done a great job with him. I know he was frustrated because he wanted to make our club right out of Spring Training, but he had to work on some things."

Selected in the second round of last year's Draft out of high school in Louisiana, Williams was hitting .386 with 31 runs scored when he was promoted. He last went hitless on July 4 when his average dropped to .297, one of two days all season on which he has not had an average of at least .300. In his final 28 games in Missoula, Williams batted .443 (51-for-115).

The 28-game hitting streak is the longest in the Pioneer League this season; no other player has hit safely in more than 16 straight games. Last year, Grand Junction's Raimel Tapia had a 29-game streak that was the league's longest in at least five years.

"He has good hand speed and good strength. He's a strong kid," Haley said of Williams. "It's just a matter of understanding pitching styles and how they're trying to handle him and get him out. He has great hand-eye coordination and he can hit the ball on the barrel."

Haley believes Williams' hitting will play well at the next level and said the organization plans to be aggressive developing the rest of his tools, particularly on defense.

"Defensively, it's just about understanding his routes," he said. "The biggest thing is players figuring out who they are. A lot of times people say you have to be this or have to be that. He had quality instructors in Missoula who brought that out, and it really hit a nerve with him and you've really seen him figure himself out.

"We want him to be able to read routes. It comes with instincts and instincts come with experience. We would rather pull the reins than slap the horse. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. We want him to be aggressive. "

This season is Williams' second in pro ball. He hit .351 with 37 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 51 games across three levels in his rookie campaign.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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