Crenshaw junior hits 18th home run to set state single-season record
With one swing in the second inning, Alia Williams stamped her name into history on Monday as the Crenshaw junior third baseman now sits atop the state leader board for most home runs in a single season with 18.
Williams’ two-run shot to left center moved her past the previous record-holders Lisa Dodd (San Diego University City) and San Pedro senior Perelini Koria, who currently holds the state record with 40.
After she crossed the plate, her teammates greeted her and play was stopped for a moment as she was presented with the history-making ball by head coach Frank Price Jr. while athletic director Sonya Neely presented her with balloons.
She was admittedly nervous during her first two at-bats, an infield popout and a double, but settled down in time to make contact and do what she’s done in ten consecutive games – hit the long ball.
“I’m just real proud of myself for working hard and coming to practice everyday and giving it my all,” Williams said, relieved from the recent pressure of chasing the record.
The ball didn’t travel too far but as Williams rounded second, she got the signal to keep running from Price at third base.
“He was pointing me home and saying ‘Go hard, go hard’ so I just kept pushing and it happened,” she said.
With 36 career home runs, Williams could pass Koria’s record if the Cougars go deep in the playoffs or at the beginning of next season.
But the long ball only tells part of her success this year. She is currently fourth in the state in batting average (.735 as of Monday’s game), first in runs batted in (62) and her slugging percentage (1.765 prior to Monday) will be a new state record if it holds by season’s end. Her RBI total will also place her amongst the all-time single season leaders.
She has been one of the reasons the Cougars ended the year with a 15-3 record – all three losses by two runs or less – and await a hopefully favorable seeding when they are announced today.
After the game, Price shared that his player’s success is a byproduct of hard work that started in 2006 when Williams came in as a freshman having never played softball before.
“She was a great athlete but struck out her a lot her first year, she had arm strength but didn’t know how to use it, she couldn’t see the ball well so she would swing and miss often,” Price said, adding that Williams, a natural righty, had to convert to a left-handed hitter.
Those struggles started to fade in the second half of that year as the two spent hours practicing and once she began making more contact, her speed took over and she finished the year with three home runs and 12 RBI’s – a remarkable effort from where she had started.
Once the summer hit, Price brought Williams to batting practice everyday along with his daughter, current Cougars second baseman Brittnei Price, and by her sophmore year, Williams showed dramatic progress with a .706 avg., 15 home runs and 68 RBI’s, the latter being tops in the state.
“She’s a kid where if you tell her something once, she picks it up,” Price said.
The legend grew that season as one of home runs hit the fence at Loyola and during the summer, another home run hit just below the top of the outfield wall at the Urban Youth Academy where she plays with the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) Monarchs.
This past year, she won the program’s Don Newcombe Award as its rookie of the year, sharing it with sophomore Le’Jon Baker on the Cougars baseball team.
But just as impressive is her personal growth during that time. Price marveled at how Williams transformed from a student who would miss classes and start fights into a team leader and role model who now carries a “B” average in the classroom.
Back then, Price gave the nickname “Muhammad” due to her name (pronounced ah-LEE-ah) sounding like the famed boxing champion’s last name and for her tendency to get in fights. Now that name symbolizes her power at the plate.
As expected, she’s getting heavy attention from college, with UNLV, Arizona State and Cal State Dominguez Hills among the suitors. When all is said and done, Williams could own several major state records and go down as arguably the best softball player in school history, a title currently held by Kenora Posey, now the starting shortstop at Tennessee as a senior.
“Right now, she’s the second best athlete behind [Posey],” Price said, but admitted that could change at the end of next year. “She has the athleticism all the tools necessary to be a dynamite player at the next level.”