The South Aiken senior was a game-changer at the plate – all opposing pitchers knew that. So they often either pitched around him or took the direct approach and intentionally walked him.
He was walked 32 times this season, but Widener still had a huge impact. He hit .370 – his on-base percentage was .560 – had 18 RBI and scored 27 runs as the Thoroughbreds advanced to the Class AAAA Lower State championship.
Widener, who also had a 1.52 ERA in 64 ⅓ innings of work, was always a threat. For that, he is The Augusta Chronicle’s pick for this year’s All-Area South Carolina baseball player of the year.
“I knew the guys behind me were going to do what they’re supposed to do,” Widener said about getting pitched around. “They always got me around, it seemed like. It hurt them more than it hurt us.”
Because he would get fewer good pitches to hit, Widener said he got a little more aggressive. But he still reached base more than half the time he stepped up to the plate.
When the bat wasn’t in his hands, Widener could be found on the mound. Widener’s fastball topped out at 94 mph, helping him to strike out 51 hitters.
Thoroughbreds coach Bob Polewski knew he was getting a talented player the moment he got him. As accolades starting rolling in and Widener became less of a secret, the player desired to work even harder. This past year, that meant spending more time in the weight room.
Widener said he gained at least 10 pounds as he devoted his efforts to becoming an even stronger player, a player who will play for the University of South Carolina.
“I knew I was getting a good player at a young age,” Polewski said. “He was advanced – bigger – and a strong kid. As a coach, one of the things you try to combat is, when you get those kids early who are good players, you hope they, one, continue to develop and, two, they keep that passion and grind. With him, that never left.”