Bloomington grad lifts A&M Corpus Christi over UHV
With all due respect, most of the people at Riverside Stadium on Thursday night were not there to watch the fist 15 pitchers take the mound.
There was only one man they wanted to see, yet for eight innings it looked like they might be disappointed. Visiting Texas A&M Corpus Christi led 7-0 one point and the Islanders closer was told before the game he wouldn't be pitching.
But baseball is a funny game. The University of Houston-Victoria produced a ninth inning rally that not only gave the fans what they wanted - but the result they desired as well.
"We didn't come with the intensity in the early innings," said UHV head coach Terry Puhl. "We saw some pretty good pitching tonight. They have quite a staff. We got a little momentum and that's the way hitting is. . I was pleased with the comeback."
Senior closer Phillip Garcia got the final two outs for the Islanders to clinch a 10-8 win for the Islanders. It was the fifth save of the season for the Bloomington graduate.
"It's a blessing to be out there in front of them with all the fans behind me, the support and the love they have," Garcia said. "It felt good going out there. I gave up a hit and a walk so I had to get back in the zone, pitch my game and zone everyone out."
Entering the ninth, the Jaguars trailed 10-4. Ryan Suescun singled in Chad Kruse to cut the deficit to four runs and force Islanders head coach Scott Malone to get Garcia warm.
"All of a sudden the tying run was at the plate," Malone said. "Once you get that close it doesn't matter who you are playing whether it's the Yankees or University Houston-Victoria you get the trying run to the plate and everyone on the field and the stands gets a bit tighter and the situation gets bigger."
Those two base runners Garcia allowed to reach meant UHV had the bases loaded in a 10-6 contest. Garcia's former Victoria Generals teammate John Longoria drew a walk, and Corti Wilson singled to skim the lead to 10-8.
That set up a strength against strength match-up between Garcia and UHV third baseman Andrew Thibodeaux. Puhl knew Garcia's best pitch is his fastball. Meanwhile, Thibodeaux was fastball hitter who has already hit two grand slams this season.
Thibodeaux popped up to second to end the game, which dropped the Jaguars to 17-29 on the season.
The out meant the Islanders could enjoy the homemade meal of brisket, rice and beans and tortillas from scratch that Garcia's grandmother Lydia Reyes prepared for them.
Until the late Jaguar rally, the game was highlighted by the designated hitters for both sides.
Creighton Hoke (2-5) drove in four runs on a pair of scorched balls to deep left center, including his fifth home run of the season. A&M Corpus Christi's Jonathan Gonzales had an even bigger night as he hit a pair of home runs, drove in six and reached base in all five plate appearances.
On the bus trip north Malone thought about not playing Gonzales, but his assistants convinced him not to over think things.
"Their DH had quite a night," Puhl said. "We tried to pitch around him, but we got into spots where you couldn't and you had to pitch to him. That 3-run home run (Gonzales hit) that one hurt because we were still close enough where we could have done something."