Associate head coach Roger Williams is in his ninth season as pitching coach for the University of Louisville baseball team, where his pitchers have been integral in the Cardinals' three College World Series appearances, seven NCAA Championship appearances, five regular-season conference titles and two conference tournament championships.
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 2014 campaign when Louisville's pitching staff was a key reason for the program's second straight College World Series appearance and the third visit to Omaha in eight seasons. Overall, the Cardinals ranked fifth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 8.4, 12th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.4), 19th nationally in shutouts with eight and 20th in ERA at 2.80. Following the 2014 season, Williams was promoted to associate head coach by Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell.
Individually, the duo of junior righty closer Nick Burdi and sophomore righty starter Kyle Funkhouser led the way earning All-American honors for the Cardinals in 2014. Chosen as the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, Burdi was named First Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, Perfect Game, the American Baseball Coaches Association and the NCBWA while setting a school record with 18 saves as a junior. Adding a 3-1 record with a 0.49 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 37.0 innings pitched in 2014, Burdi became the Cardinals' highest draft pick ever when the Minnesota Twins selected him 46th overall in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The hard-throwing righty closed his collegiate career as Louisville's all-time saves leader with 34 to go along with a school record 1.79 ERA.
In his first season as a weekend starter for the Cardinals, Funkhouser emerged as the ace of the staff earning Second Team All-America honors from the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball newspaper and Third Team All-America accolades from Baseball America and Perfect Game. Statistically, he set a school record for single season wins finishing 13-3 overall with a 1.94 ERA and 122 strikeouts (third most at Louisville) in 120.1 innings pitched (second most at Louisville) and 18 starts. Following Louisville's trip to Omaha, Funkhouser pitched for the USA Collegiate National Team finishing with a team-high 36 strikeouts and a 1.27 ERA in six appearances and 28.1 innings.
In June, Burdi was one of four Louisville pitchers chosen in the MLB Draft as righty Jared Ruxer was taken in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, lefty Joe Filomeno went in the 15th round to the Texas Rangers and lefty Kyle McGrath went in the 36th round to the San Diego Padres. It marked the second straight season the Cardinals had four pitchers selected in the MLB Draft.
A year earlier, Louisville's second CWS berth was anchored by a pitching staff that ranked among the nation's best as the Cardinals closed the 2013 season at No. 5 in the NCAA in ERA at 2.52, No. 1 overall in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.6, No. 2 in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (6.93), ninth in WHIP (1.15) and 11th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.82 strikeouts per walk). Louisville also set a school record for shutouts in 2013 with 10 surpassing the previous school record of seven set during the program's first College World Series appearance in 2007. For his work with the Cardinals in 2013, Williams was selected as the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year.
Overall, Louisville finished with a school record 629 strikeouts on the mound while opponents hit just .214 against the Cardinals in 2013. The 2.52 ERA was the lowest for a Louisville team since 1958. During the run to the College World Series, the Cardinals had a 2.47 ERA in seven NCAA Championship games with 60 strikeouts in 62.0 innings pitched. The pitching staff was a key component to Louisville's NCAA Super Regional win at No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt as the Cardinals outpitched the Commodores allowing just three earned runs and a .176 batting average (12 hits, one extra-base hit) in the two-game sweep in Nashville.
Individually, a pair of Louisville pitchers earned All-America honors in 2013 as sophomore righty Nick Burdi (16 saves, 0.76 ERA) was a First Team Perfect Game All-American and a Second Team NCBWA All-American while junior righty Jeff Thompson (11-2, 2.19 ERA) was Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America by College Baseball newspaper, Third Team All-America by Perfect Game and Third Team All-America by NCBWA. Thompson was also selected as BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year marking the fifth time in seven years a Louisville player has earned the conference award. Two more Louisville pitchers - righthanders Kyle Funkhouser (5-1, 2.14 ERA) and Anthony Kidston (5-0, 1.31 ERA) - were named Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans in 2013.
Following the season, Louisville had four pitchers selected in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft -- righthander Dace Kime was taken 79th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the third round, Thompson was selected 94th overall in the third round by the Detroit Tigers, righty Chad Green was selected in the 11th Round by the Detroit Tigers and lefty Cody Ege was taken in the 15th Round by the Texas Rangers.
The momentum for the Cardinals' highly successful 2013 season started with an impressive 2012 season when Louisville won the BIG EAST regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Regional final in Tucson. Leading the way for the pitchers was righty Justin Amlung, a Louisville Slugger All-American and the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, who was 9-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 109 innings. 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 was 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, 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.
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.
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. Prior to his stint in Athens, Williams tutored the pitchers at his alma mater, North Carolina, for 11 seasons. 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 ranked 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 Williams completed his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1992 and earned 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.