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LOL pitcher Garcia slams door on Wiregrass

WESLEY CHAPEL — Eight guns keyed in on Jason Garcia.

Those invisible beams have been tracking most of his pitches since the early summer, their aim on fastball after fastball.

And again Tuesday it was clear why these Major League Baseball scouts sit in a tight cluster behind home plate, angling their radar guns at the Land O'Lakes senior.

As his fastball approached 90 miles per hour, Garcia took command in a 3-0 victory at Wiregrass Ranch. The Bulls mustered just two hits off Garcia, who finished with 11 strikeouts, five walks, one hit batter and the complete-game shutout.

"Over the summer it made me nervous," Garcia said of the scouts. "Now I just focus on the glove and throw strikes."

Garcia's command was vital Tuesday on another night when the Gators' bats were ice cold. They finished with just three hits, two singles from designated hitter Gino Pepenella.

Land O'Lakes (6-2) scored in the top of the third inning thanks to a sacrifice fly to leftfield by David Perez. Then with runners at the corners, a wild pitch by Wiregrass Ranch's John Michael Gant scored Trae Urban from third. A throwing error by Bulls catcher Spencer Bowles over third base allowed the Gators' Nick Pardo to race home for a 3-0 lead.

"Offensively, I'm befuddled," Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley said. "We're a work in progress. We're better than this. I know I've got guys that can hit, but right now it's contagious and we've all got it. … If we ever start swinging the bat like we can, we'll be dangerous."

Baisley said he's superstitious and has yet to defer to some old rituals to revive his sluggers. In the past Baisley said he has pulled lineups out of a hat and canceled batting practice to help alleviate the mental pressures of the slump.

Wiregrass (8-2) had its own struggles offensively. Three baserunners would reach second, but first-year coach Jeff Swymer was more concerned about the lack of leadoff runners reaching base. In all, only Josh Johnson managed to advance to first on a walk in the fourth before becoming the second out of the inning.

Gant also went the distance with seven strikeouts, three hits and just two walks.

In terms of the district race, the Bulls still hold a commanding lead for the top seed with plenty of baseball to be played. Next up, Pasco on Thursday.

"We still control our own destiny," Swymer said. "We have to make sure this loss doesn't snowball. … We're on top of the district. We have to make sure we stay there."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

LOL pitcher Garcia slams door on Wiregrass 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 10:53pm]
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