WNCC pitcher Justin Garcia ready to take championship mound
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Justin Garcia knows he’s stepping onto the biggest stage of his life. But don’t expect him to have stars in his eyes.
All eyes will be on the Western Nevada Community College pitcher at 1 p.m. today when he takes the mound against the nation’s No. 1 ranked team in the JUCO World Series. WNCC will take on New Mexico Community College in a winner’s bracket game in its quest to take one more step toward the World Series title.
A lot of pitchers would be intimidated by the fact that New Mexico scored 14 runs and banged out 19 hits in its opening 14-12 win over Young Harris of Georgia on Saturday. But while Garcia respects New Mexico, he’s not in awe.
“I know I’m up against a good challenge,” Garcia said. “I’m not intimidated at all.”
Garcia is just looking forward to the chance. “I can’t wait to throw tomorrow in front of that stage,” Garcia said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
And Garcia’s not going to change his approach against New Mexico. “They’re a real aggressive team,” Garcia said. “They’ve got some pop on their team.”
“I just want to stay down in the zone and stay with what works,” Garcia also said, referring to keeping the ball down and throwing strikes.
WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said he’s got the right man on the mound for today’s game. “Justin is a great pitcher because he’s able to do what great pitchers do, change speeds and locate his fastball. He gets ahead of hitters and keeps his composure. He doesn’t give away many free passes (walks).”
Garcia got his arm loose on Saturday night after WNCC’s 2-0 win over Delgado Community College of New Orleans when he threw a bullpen session. “The bullpen went real well,” Garcia said. “My arm feels really good.”
The WNCC sophomore has received a much needed break after pitching more than 94 innings this year for the Wildcats, going 10-5 with a 2.60 earned run average. Today will be the first time in 10 days since Garcia has pitched, but he said rust shouldn’t be a factor.
“I think I’ll be fine going out there (with) a lot of rest,” Garcia said. “It’s nice to get the rest.”
While Garcia would like to pitch a nine-inning shutout, he knows that’s highly unlikely. His ultimate goal is to at least pitch well enough to give his relief pitchers the lead late in the game. On Saturday, after Cole Rohrbough pitched brilliantly over 7.1 innings, relievers Dan Grubbs and Stephen Sauer came on to finish the job.
“We’ve got a really strong bullpen,” Garcia said. “If I give them the ball with the lead in the late innings, there’s a great chance we’ll win the ballgame.”
When asked if he could ever imagine pitching in the World Series against the nation’s No. 1 team in the second year of WNCC’s program, Garcia said, “Absolutely not. It’s one of those dreams come true. This is the biggest game I’ll ever pitch in.”
Now Garcia said, “It’s about stepping up and doing it.”
• Contact Charles Whisnand at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1214.
Justin Garcia file
Jersey number: 15
Position: Pitcher and third base
Hometown: Las Vegas (Sierra Vista High School)
Trivia: Garcia was the winning pitcher when the WNCC program beat Glendale (Ariz.) Community College 4-2 in its first game ever.
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