By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
The best season for the Williams baseball team under coach Jamie Athas became the last season under his watch.
Athas has stepped down from the position after directing the Bulldogs to their first spot in the state playoffs in 10 years.
“I knew this was a possibility,” Athas said. “It’s hard because you build relationships with the kids that are there.”
Athas isn’t going far. He’ll shift from his physical education teacher’s position at Williams to a similar position at Highland Elementary School.
The Bulldogs went 17-11 this year, reaching the second round of the Class 3-A state playoffs. That marked Williams’ first winning season since 2012 (other than a 3-1 mark in the abbreviated 2000 season). The five-year record under Athas was 40-46.
“Coach Athas was very strict as a coach and it was because he wanted the very best for us,” rising senior pitcher Tate Jones said. “He really has the knowledge and background and he knows how to build a program.”
The Bulldogs were runner-up to state power Orange in the Central 3-A Conference and then won a state-playoff game on the road.
“That’s something I was real proud of to be a part of,” Athas said of the state playoffs. “We wanted to win the conference, but the kids started to see that, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good.’ ”
Athas was named Coach of the Year in the conference.
Williams could be primed for more success with Jones, the ace pitcher, two-year starting catcher Dan Mahan as a rising junior and fellow all-conference pick Trace Hicks has one season remaining.
“We’re returning most of our roster, so we’re in a really good spot,” Jones said. “I think he has established a really good foundation.”
Jones and Mahan said the players understand Athas’ family reasons for stepping aside.
“He was amazing. He really wanted us to succeed as a man,” Mahan said. “All the work he put in for us. He was always there. He’s one of the coaches you really wanted to see succeed. I’m glad he finally got that success. You see a coach give that much to you, you want to give just as much back.”
Athas, 43, was a former college standout at Wake Forest before spending time on UNC Greensboro’s coaching staff. He was the Cedar Ridge coach prior to replacing now-Orange coach Jason Knapp at Williams.
Athas has four children, with the oldest entering Western Alamance in August, and another child on the way. He’ll remain in coaching capacities as he’s involved with a daughter’s club softball team and his son’s travel baseball team.
From the Williams 2023 team, only two starting position players were seniors and most of the innings logged on the mound were from underclassmen.
“It has the making of another good team that can make a run at it,” Athas said.
Jones said, “We’re curious and excited for the future.”