GRANVILLE, W.Va. – Freshman Ellis Garcia stood in the right-handed batter’s box Saturday evening with a golden opportunity. West Virginia had just tied the game, and runners stood on the corners with just one man down.
Attempting to take the risk of an inning-ending, rally-killing double play out of the equation, Randy Mazey put the bunt sign on. Garcia was to drop one down, sacrificing himself while driving in a run in the process. That was the plan anyway.
Garcia fouled off his first bunt attempt. The next pitch eluded his stretched-out bat completely, putting the young hitter behind in the count, with zero balls against two strikes.
Mazey summoned Garcia over toward the first-base dugout for a chat.
“He told me to flush it. There’s nothing you can do. That was in the past, and that he trusted in me to drive in those runs or just put the ball in play, and at least bring in one,” Garcia said, recounting the conversation after the game.
His head coach could see the disappointment in his eyes. That is, in part, what prompted the chat between the head coach and freshman infielder.
“I had to tell him, just relax man,” said Mazey. “You’re in the hole, you got an 0-2 count, you have to relax. You’re a great hitter with two strikes. Don’t worry about the bunts, you can’t worry about the bunts, they’re ancient history. You got to be a really good hitter right now.”
Garcia battled over the next three pitches. He fouled off the initial pitch after his conversation with Mazey. He then watched two pitches fall outside the strike zone to even the count at 2-2.
“The little boy’s growing up right in front of my very eyes,” Mazey added, tongue in cheek.
The Elmwood Park, New Jersey native got a pitch he could do something with on the sixth, and final, pitch of the at-bat. Garcia pulled his hands in, and barreled up a pitch that was down in the zone. He muscled the fastball over the raised fence down the left-field line for a three-run home run that gave the Mountaineers a 7-4 lead.
“Never in my life,” Garcia said when asked if he had ever homered after coming up empty on two bunt attempts in the same at-bat. “I was so upset when I missed those two, but yeah first time for sure.”
It was Garcia’s third home run of the season, and it couldn’t have come in a bigger spot.
“[For Mazey] to have the slightest bit of trust, it means the world to me for sure,” added the first-year infielder.
West Virginia held on to that three-run lead the rest of the game to secure a series win over visiting TCU. Garcia came to the plate with the game tied, and despite failing to achieve the original objective of his plate appearance, turned the game on its head just a few pitches later.
“We’re playing for one there, and we end up with three,” said Mazey. “That’s a huge play in the game.”