With a 4-for-4 performance Wednesday morning, Yankees No. 4 prospect
Mason Williams led the Charleston RiverDogs to their 10th straight win, a 9-4 decision at Lexington. Williams is part of a core of young Yankees that has the 'Dogs at 15-3 and tied for the best record in baseball.
After hitting his first home run of 2012, he said he thinks the chemistry and continuity he has with his teammates has been a big part of that success.
"I feel like the camaraderie on the team is unbelievable. Ben Gamel, Tyler Austin, Angelo Gumbs -- we've all been together since the first day we got drafted -- instructs, Spring Training, to the Dominican together."
The Yankees youngsters haven't just been together; they've won together. Most of the 2012 RiverDogs were part of title winners last year -- either in the New York-Penn League for Staten Island or for the Yankees of the Gulf Coast League. Charleston has never won a South Atlantic League title.
On Wednesday, Williams -- a wiry center fielder listed at 150 pounds -- led the game off with a gap double but was stranded.
"On the double, it was actually a 2-2 count," said Williams. "[Kyle Hallock] is a lefty, and he just threw a fastball and tried to reach the outer corner, and he left it up in the outer half."
The double was just the left-handed-hitting Williams' second extra-base hit against left-handed pitching for the season.
In the second inning, Williams walked as part of a two-run rally started by Gumbs' double. Gumbs, a second base prospect ranked No. 17 in the system, has shown signs of breaking out of an early-season slump with consecutive multi-hit games.
In a four-run fourth that broke the game open, another 2010 draftee, shortstop Cito Culver (No. 9 Yankees prospect), singled as did Williams. Charleston put together the rally through five singles and benefited from two Legends errors.
Austin, the Yankees' No. 15 prospect, led off the seventh with a home run to make the score 7-0. The right fielder's 0-for-4 effort Tuesday marked the first time he hadn't had a hit since his first game of the season April 6. Wednesday's home run to right -- his fifth of the season -- ensured the hit drought would be brief and kept Austin in second in the South Atlantic League in total bases with 52.
Charleston capped its scoring in the eighth when Williams and Anderson Feliz hit back-to-back solo shots off Lexington reliever Tanner Bushue, the Astros' No. 12 prospect.
"On the home run, it was actually a 1-2 count, and he tried to throw the fastball inside, and I tried to throw my hands at it and it left the ballpark," said Williams simply. It was his fourth professional home run in 362 at-bats.
With the four-hit day, Williams raised his average to .347 and now has eight multi-hit performances in his last 11 games. He's reached base in 15 straight games.
"I really think it's a confidence thing right now," said Williams of his success at the plate. "I'm a confident player, and my swing has been feeling pretty good the last few games."
Williams has picked up where he left off after a breakout 2011 season for Staten Island, one that rocketed the Winter Garden, Fla., native up prospect rankings list. Williams finished second in the New York-Penn League in batting average at .349, had 10 more hits than anyone else in the circuit and tied for the league lead with 28 stolen bases. Despite only hitting three home runs, Williams finished second in the NYPL in total bases with 126.
His performance at Staten Island helped lift him to No. 73 on MLB.com's list of top prospects entering the season, and Williams admits he's more visible than he once was.
"I definitely have a bigger fan base than last year," said Williams. "But it still comes down to performing and playing hard every day."