Winning the Big West Pitcher of the Week award was so nice, junior James Garcia decided to do it twice.
On Monday, the Big West named Garcia its Pitcher of the Week for his outing against Long Beach State. The junior went the full nine innings against LBSU, limiting the Dirtbags to seven hits and two earned runs. Garcia also struck out four and walked only two. The win capped a successful week for Garcia, as earlier in the week he saved the Gauchos’ 12-inning victory over the Dirtbags, pitching a scoreless final inning.
“[Garcia] struggled early [on Friday], but didn’t struggle the entire game,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s such a competitor that he can go out with less than great stuff and still win. He started feeling it late.”
Ironically, the week in which Garcia missed out on Pitcher of the Week may have been his best start of the season. Pitching against Pacific, Garcia threw a complete game and gave up only one run. In addition, Garcia tied his career high with 11 strikeouts, while walking none. But that week, the Big West deemed another pitcher more impressive: UCSB sophomore starter Jim Bullard. Bullard also turned in a brilliant performance against the Tigers.
The recent accolades only serve to highlight a Santa Barbara pitching staff filled with skilled hurlers.
“We have three solid starters, a solid bullpen and a solid closer in [senior Jamie] Gonzalez,” Bullard said. “It’s the strongest pitching staff that we’ve had since I’ve been here and probably one of the best all time at UCSB.”
Garcia (9-1) and senior Rylie Ogle (9-2) are now both just one victory away from reaching 10 wins, a feat last accomplished in 1991 by current UCSB pitching Coach Tom Myers. With #23 Santa Barbara heading to Fullerton this weekend, Myers would love to see both hurlers reach double digits in wins against the Titans.
“I hope they both tie [the record] and go well beyond it,” Myers said. “If they do reach the mark it means that we’re banging on the door of the Big West Title, and going even further.”
If UCSB is going to challenge for the Big West Championship as Myers suggested, it will take winning at least two out of three, if not sweeping, Fullerton. Beating the #1 team in the country on Friday will take another dominating performance from Garcia, and Myers believes that Garcia is up to the task.
“[Garcia] is a gamer,” Myers said. “Even if he doesn’t bring his best stuff to the table, he’ll beat you with his intangibles. That’s something that will take him a long way in baseball.”