Missouri baseball's Garcia has seen hits fall during home winning streak

Friday, March 18, 2011 | 10:30 p.m. CDT; updated 10:45 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — The ball would connect squarely on the barrel of the bat, just like it's supposed to. It would dart out into the field hard and low, the stuff of a textbook hit.

Invariably, it would go directly toward, and then into, the glove of a fielder.


Missouri vs. Central Michigan, doubleheader

WHEN: 1 p.m., 4 p.m.

WHERE: Taylor Stadium

RADIO: KTGR 100.5 FM/1580 AM

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Missouri second baseman Eric Garcia didn't like one bit of it. But he understood, and he kept swinging.

"You can square a ball up and it's going to get caught sometimes," he said. "It's just part of the game. Eventually I hoped it would even out."

It started to Friday in Missouri's 7-6 series-opening win against Central Michigan. Garcia went 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, and one or two of those weren't even hit flush.

"Today he didn't even square the ball up and he got hits," center fielder Brannon Champagne said. "That's just how baseball goes. He's been hitting the ball well, and he's always going to hit well, so we're not too worried about him."

As Garcia has started hitting, the Tigers have started winning. Even before Friday, Garcia had hit .380 at home, and with the win over Central Michigan, Missouri (8-9) won its fifth game out of the last seven.

Though Garcia attributes the turnaround mostly to the whims of baseball rather than the difference of playing at home, he did say the ball usually seems to fly a little better at Taylor Stadium.

That could simply be part of what the sophomore called a good environment.

"Just being home feels good," he said.

Early in the season, Garcia's teammates watched line drive after line drive jump off his bat headed right at opposing fielders, and they felt for him. They'd all been there, too, and they respected how he'd handled the run of bad luck.

"I love Garcia," said reliever Phil McCormick, who earned the save against Central Michigan. "He's always got a solid approach. What people don't realize is that he had like 10 walks and two strikeouts (on the road)."

Garcia said he stayed comfortable at the plate and tried not to press. He told himself that his swing was fine, that everything would be fine.

His coach, Tim Jamieson, could tell is was bothering him, though.

"It was hard for him," Jamieson said. "I think he understood he was doing what he could, and that's why he's been able to come back. If he would have dwelled on the numbers, he'd still be struggling."

After taking three of four games from Le Moyne last week, Missouri hopes to win another series against Central Michigan this weekend and two games against Central Arkansas next week before beginning Big 12 conference play.

Once Garcia finds consistency, his teammates like their chances.

"It's going to be huge," Champagne said. "Once he gets going, that's just going to be more firepower for our offense, which is obviously another plus."

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