Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garcia's Arm Sends Passaic to Semifinals

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garcia's Arm Sends Passaic to Semifinals

Article excerpt

PASSAIC - Without much margin for error, Joey Garcia got out of every predicament Passaic's baseball team faced Saturday.

The Indians' superb sophomore lefty picked off Hawthorne runners from first base in the second and third innings, and twice struck out back-to-back batters when Hawthorne had runners on base with one out in the Passaic County tournament quarterfinals. Garcia's guile led to a three-hit shutout, 15 strikeouts and a 1-0 victory that placed Passaic in the semifinals for the first time in the 44- season history of the tournament.

Top-seeded Passaic was 0-6 in quarterfinal appearances before Saturday.

Breaking through to the semifinals continued a season of firsts for the Indians. They were seeded first in the tournament for the first time last month, and have clinched the Big North Liberty Division title, the first division championship in school history.

"This means that this program has made a turn for the better," Passaic coach Pete Diaz said of reaching the semifinals. "We're hoping that this continues. We have something to shoot for in the future. Every game that we win from this point forward, we're making history."

Passaic (16-7), ranked No. 10 in The Record Top 25, will turn to Garcia again in the semifinals Saturday at Passaic Tech. The Indians will play fourth-seeded DePaul at 1 p.m.

The Spartans can only hope Garcia (8-1) isn't as tough on them as he was on eighth-seeded Hawthorne.

After allowing a first-inning triple to Hawthorne senior catcher LJ Kozlowski, Garcia produced a performance for the ages.

Clinging to a one-run lead, he got out of a bases-loaded, one- out jam in the fourth by recording two strikeouts. With runners on first and second and one out in the fifth, Garcia again struck out consecutive batters to halt Hawthorne's threat.

"My catcher [sophomore Luis Rodriguez] told me to calm down, to not be too anxious, because I was throwing myself out," Garcia said. "I just did what my catcher said. He told me, 'Slow down. Take your time. …

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