Roger Williams is in his seventh season as pitching coach for the University of Louisville baseball team, where his pitchers have been integral in the Cardinals' five NCAA Championship appearances, three BIG EAST regular-season titles, two BIG EAST Tournament titles and 2007 College World Series appearance.
Throughout Williams' tenure as pitching coach, one of the Cardinals' most consistent strengths has been the team's work on the mound. That remained evident during the 2012 season when Louisville's talented pitching staff was a key factor in the program winning the BIG EAST regular season title and advancing to the NCAA Regional final in Tucson. Leading the way for the pitchers was junior righty Justin Amlung, a Louisville Slugger All-American and the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year. Amlung, who became the fourth different Louisville pitcher in six years to win the league Pitcher of the Year honor, was 9-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 109 innings. Freshman righty Jared Ruxer became the second Louisville pitcher to be selected as BIG EAST Rookie of the Year as he went 8-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 starts.
Joining Amlung and Ruxer as All-BIG EAST selections were righty Jeff Thompson, who was 9-4 with 73 strikeouts in 78.2 innings, and right-handed reliever Derek Self, who led the Cards with seven saves to go with a 2-2 record and a 3.41 ERA. Following the season, righty Matt Koch led a trio of Louisville pitchers selected in the 2012 MLB Draft when he was taken in the third round (107th overall) by the New York Mets. Self followed by going in the ninth round by the Washington Nationals, while Amlung went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round.
Louisville's trend of success on the mound continued in 2011 when the 3.06 team ERA was the program's lowest in more than 30 years. The pitching staff was led by Amlung, a First Team All-BIG EAST selection, who finished 10-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 105.0 innings of work. Following Amlung was closer and All-BIG EAST honoree Tony Zych, who had 13 saves and was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
The Cardinals' 2010 stable of pitchers was led by First Team All-American closer Neil Holland and BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Thomas Royse. Holland finished the season ranked second in the nation with 17 saves to go along with an 8-1 record. In 56.1 innings of relief, the First Team All-BIG EAST selection had a 2.08 ERA and 59 strikeouts while opposing batters hit just .160 against him. Royse finished 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 104.1 innings of work. Following the season, Royse was selected 114th overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 2010 MLB Draft, while Holland was an 11th Round selection by the Washington Nationals. As a group, the Louisville pitchers led the BIG EAST and ranked 11th nationally with a 3.69 ERA while also leading the league in opposing batting average (.261) and strikeouts (485).
Williams' 2009 pitching staff was led by Justin Marks, who set a single-season school record with 11 wins to earn Second Team All-America and BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year accolades. Marks also finished his three-year career as the Cards' all-time leader in wins (29), strikeouts (305), ERA (2.96) and starts (48) before being drafted in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. Overall, the Cards' 2009 pitching staff led the BIG EAST in ERA at 4.32 and ranked 22nd in the nation.
Along with Marks, Royse also earned All-BIG EAST honors in 2009, while newcomers Derek Self and Tony Zych earned Freshman All-America recognition. Self was 7-0 on the season with a 3.88 ERA, while Zych was 6-2 overall, including a win in the BIG EAST Tournament title game over UConn to earn All-Tournament honors and a win in the Cards' NCAA Regional title game triumph over Vanderbilt to earn All-Regional honors.
After making an immediate impact on the Cards' pitching staff in the program's run to the College World Series in 2007, Williams saw his pitching staff continue its impressive success in 2008 with the program's first-ever BIG EAST Tournament title. The Cards were 4-0 in the tournament, including a pair of wins by Marks, who finished 2008 with a 9-2 record overall and a 2.37 ERA en route to earning First Team All-BIG EAST honors as well as Second Team (Ping!Baseball) and Third Team (ABCA) All-America honors.
In his first season in Louisville, Williams' pitching staff finished the 2007 season with a trip to Omaha and an ERA that closed the season ranked fifth in the nation. Williams dropped the team ERA from 4.87 in 2006 to 3.14 in 2007, despite inheriting a staff that lost six of its top seven arms. The squad set school records in wins (47), innings pitched (636.2) and strikeouts (514), up from 358 in 2006.
BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, junior Zack Pitts, who was 1-1 with a 5.74 ERA in 31.1 innings as a sophomore, tied the school record and led the BIG EAST with 10 wins in his first season under Williams in 2007, tossing a record 121.2 innings pitched while posting a 2.52 ERA.
Marks was named Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Freshman of the Year after posting a 9-2 record with a 2.67 ERA in 104.2 IP. Opponents hit a conference-low .189 against Marks.
Senior closer Trystan Magnuson lead the BIG EAST with a school-record 37 appearances and posted nine saves, adding a 1.77 ERA - eighth in Cardinal history and third in the modern era (1975-present). Magnuson was drafted by the Blue Jays with the 56th pick in the draft after going undrafted in 2006, dropping his ERA from 3.69 to 1.77 in one season with Williams.
Senior Skylar Meade more than doubled his career win total, going 9-4 for the Cardinals in 2007, and relievers Gavin Logsdon and Kyle Hollander were both named to the All-Columbia Regional team, combining to allow just one earned run and strike out 12 in 15.1 IP. Logsdon was 2-0 with a 1.92 ERA in 51.2 IP his sophomore year after tossing just 6.1 innings with a 10.50 ERA as a freshman. Hollander was 4-1 with a pair of saves and a 2.40 ERA and signed a pro contract with the Yankees following the season.
Among the elite pitching coaches in college baseball, Williams helped guide Georgia to the College World Series in Omaha, in his first season with the Bulldogs and the year before his arrival in The Ville.
"Roger Williams is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the country. He has made his mark with a distinguished playing and coaching career, and his reputation is one of integrity and desire," noted Cardinals' head coach Dan McDonnell.
Prior to his stint in Athens, Williams tutored the pitchers at his alma mater, North Carolina, for 11 seasons. During his 18 years as an assistant coach, he has watched 51 of his pitchers continue their careers in professional baseball. During his 21 seasons in NCAA baseball as a player and assistant, his teams have averaged more than 40 wins per season.
With a pair of pitchers tabbed in the top two rounds in 2007 (Louisville's Trystan Magnuson and UGA's Joshua Fields) and three of his former pitchers (UGA's Brooks Brown and UNC's Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard) tabbed in the first round of the 2006 draft, he has had nine pupils picked in the first two rounds.
Among the Bulldogs he worked with in his only season at UGA, Brown doubled his win total from four in 2005 to eight in 2006 and lowered his opponents' batting average from .318 to .242 under Williams. Sophomore closer Fields lowered his ERA from 7.00 to a minuscule 1.80, adding a school record-tying 15 saves while earning All-American honors. Weekend starters Rip Warren and Mickey Westfal combined to win four games during the 2005 slate, but under Williams they won a combined 15 games, helping the team go 47-23 and advance to Omaha. Five freshman Bulldog hurlers also saw innings during the 2006 slate, posting a combined 17-6 mark, paced by eight-game winner and freshman All-American Nathan Moreau.
In Williams' final season with the Tar Heels, the team ranked 10th in the nation in ERA (3.17) and advanced to its fourth straight regional. That 2005 staff posted seven shutouts, tying the school mark established during the 2000 season.
The 2006 UNC staff that Williams helped develop during the three seasons prior was one of the nation's elite, producing 2006 first-rounders Bard and Miller. Miller earned the Roger Clemens Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Cy Young, was Baseball America National Player of the Year and made All-America honors from every major national outlet. Bard and Miller earned freshman All-America honors in 2004 with Bard being named the ACC Freshman of the Year. In 2005, Miller went 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA while sophomore Robert Woodard led the Tar Heels, going 8-0 with a 2.11 ERA. Sophomore closer Matt Danford was second in the ACC in ERA at 1.41 and recorded nine saves.
A two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer himself as a pitcher in 1984 and 1985, Williams ranks seventh in career wins at UNC with 24, posting a winning percentage of .800 during his three seasons. He enjoyed single-season bests in strikeouts in 1985 with 113 and ERA in 1983, a stunning 1.19. Both are top six in school history. He amassed 254 career strikeouts in Carolina Blue. Williams tied an ACC single-game record with 19 strikeouts against Duke in 1985.
Williams was tabbed in the fourth round of the 1985 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs and went on to play six seasons of pro ball, including two seasons at AAA Des Moines.
Following his playing career, Williams spent three seasons as the pitching coach at East Carolina, where the Pirates won 41 games in 1993 and advanced to an NCAA Regional. The pitching staff under Williams placed fifth in the nation in team ERA (2.99). Johnny Beck finished his career with the Pirates ranked first in innings (383.1) and second in wins (32) and strikeouts (317) under Williams.
Williams is a native of Greenville, N.C., where his father George was the head baseball coach at ECU from 1974-76. It was there Roger earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1992 and a master's degree in education in 1993.
Williams is married to the former Stephanie Hensley of Asheville, N.C., and the couple has one daughter, Avery.