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Bennett, Williams commit to Vols

Two Farragut High School baseball standouts who lived under the shadow of Michael Williams in 2009 handled that challenge rather well.

After helping lead FHS to its third Class AAA state title in four years, senior catcher Ethan Bennett and senior pitcher/infielder Nick Williams both committed to the Tennessee Vols last week.

“Ever since I was little I’ve always wanted to play on a higher level of baseball,” said Bennett, who hit .360 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI in ’09, helping him at least partially fill the shoes of catcher Michael Williams, FHS’s 2008 Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year.

“And I think with U-T there’s a lot of benefits, being close to home and my family.”

Saying he grew up a Volunteers fan, Bennett, 18, said he’s confident he can compete for playing time at UT and withstand the rigors of playing within the Southeastern Conference, because “I’m a hard worker.”

Though Bennett and Williams, both All-District 4-AAA and All-Region 2-AAA honorees last season, live in the same Farragut neighborhood — and announced their UT intentions less than 48 hours apart — “that was a coincidence,” Bennett said, adding he and Nick had not discussed their college plans with each other.

New FHS head coach Matt Buckner said of Bennett, “His catch-throw skills are great. He’s an exception defensive player. ... Very big and physical and strong.”

Tommy Pharr, former FHS head coach now at Christian Academy of Knoxville, said Bennett “is a good catch-and-throw guy. A strong kid with a lot of pop in his bat. ... Very few people even tried to run on him. Probably the biggest thing about him is he’s a just a great kid and a hard worker.”

As for Nick Williams, who lives in the shadow of Michael Williams as his younger brother, UT “is somewhere where I’ve always wanted to go as a little kid. It’s been one of my dreams to play baseball at Tennessee.”

The Vols also are rivals to Michael’s Kentucky Wildcats, where he’s a rising sophomore.

Though his long-term bread-and-butter is considered to be pitching, Nick said he'll enter UT as a “two-way player,” also at first base. Nick, 17, pitched his way to a perfect 8-0 mark for FHS in 2009 with an 0.82 ERA. As a part-time first baseman, Nick hit eight homers.

Adding spice to the UT versus Kentucky rivalry, Nick said it would be “awesome” for both him and Michael to see playing time when UK plays the Vols.

Michael said, “competing on the field with each other will be interesting, but it'll be fun at the same time. He's always wanted to go [to UT], so I'm proud of him.”

Pharr said of Nick, “He's a quality kid. Nick's a physical kid. He's worked really, really hard to become a very good baseball player and a very good pitcher. He has good velocity, throws the ball hard. Very competitive. He's a very good hitter, too, a lot of juice in his bat.”


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