Senior Ryan Williams will wear East Carolina’s honorary No. 23 jersey for the 2014 season according to an announcement by head coach Billy Godwin during the program’s annual “Meet The Pirates’ fan session, which was held inside the Murphy Center Saturday afternoon.
The No. 23 jersey, which was the number worn by the late ECU Head Coach Keith LeClair throughout his coaching and playing career, became an honorary number for the Pirate program in 2003.
“Ryan is very passionate about East Carolina,” Godwin said. “He has a champions heart with a great work ethic, whose selfless approach is contagious. He embodies all the characteristics (determination and desire) associated with wearing the No. 23 jersey, and will wear it with great pride and help carry on its legacy within the ECU community.”
After transferring from West Valley College, Williams appeared in 18 games making 15 starts where he posted a 6-2 record with a 4.50 ERA during his initial year with the Pirates. The right-hander from Morgan Hill, Calif., allowed 55 runs (48 earned) in 96.0 innings and struck out 45 batters while walking just 17 – ranking second in Conference USA.
Williams made his Pirate debut against No. 25 Virginia (Feb. 16) surrendering four runs (three earned) on six hits over six innings with a pair of punch-outs in a no-decision. In his next three starts, he notched wins against Boston College (Feb. 22), St. John’s (Mar. 2) and Monmouth (Mar. 9) tossing at least seven full innings in each outing. He improved to 4-0 with a win at Jacksonville (Mar. 16) in his fifth start, followed by relief victories at Elon (Mar. 27) and Gardner-Webb (Apr. 30) pushing his season total to six wins, tying Jeff Hoffman for the team lead.
In all, he worked at least six full innings in eight starts, allowed three or fewer runs on seven occasions and recorded at least five strikeouts four times with a season-high seven at Elon. Williams tallied five quality starts (6.0 IP, 3 or less runs) ranking third on the staff behind Hoffman (11) and David Lucroy (seven).
“This is an unbelievable honor and words can not describe what I am feeling right now,” Williams said after putting on the No. 23 jersey. “Two years ago when I came to Greenville and saw the passion that the fans have for East Carolina and its baseball team, I knew this was home. This is the highest honor a baseball player can receive at ECU and I believe it’s the best honor and tradition in all of college baseball.”
The honorary No. 23 is awarded annually to a deserving player who best displays the hustle, determination and desire that made LeClair a great coach and player.
Williams becomes the ninth senior and 11th Pirate to wear the honorary No. 23 jersey following Ben Sanderson (2003), Jamie Paige (2004), Brian Cavanaugh (2005), Adam Witter (2006), Chris Powell (2007), Drew Schieber (2008), Brandon Henderson (2009), two-time winner Austin Homan (2010-11), Timothy Younger (2012) and Jay Cannon (2013).
LeClair's courageous battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, has garnered support and admiration throughout the ECU and collegiate baseball community.
The Pirates will open the 2014 season on Friday, Feb. 14 when they play host to James Madison. First pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST).
ECU senior pitcher Ryan Williams will wear the honorary #23 jersey this year for the Pirate baseball team.
The announcement was made Saturday afternoon at the annual Meet the Pirates event.
The #23 jersey is awarded each year in honor of former ECU head coach Keith LeClair who wore the number while at the Pirate helm. LeClair died from ALS in 2006.