The natural jump for pitchers who experience success as freshman is into the weekend rotation as a sophomore. Garza admits he hoped that would be the case.
Hughes’ was cognizant of that. But the potential to use Garza three times in a conference series elevates Garza’s value.
“Coming out of the bullpen means I can pitch in a lot more games and that’s more fun for me,” Garza said. “Being able to come in late in games is always fun.”
Quality relievers are tough to find in college baseball, much less a dominant closer. All are recruited based on what they’ve shown in high school or junior college as starters. They get the chance to ease into the game and build momentum over a couple innings.
The attributes that make for the best closer isn’t necessarily an overpowering arm — though it greatly helps. It’s an unflappable mentality that’s most needed.
Ideally, you’d love to give them the ball at the start of the ninth inning, but sometimes it’s the eighth with two runners on and no outs. No matter the circumstance, he has to handle it.
“I try to always calm myself down before I get in there,” Garza said. “You never want the moment to get the best of you. I want to focus on what I’m supposed to do.”
OU pitching coach Jamie Pinzino saw back in the fall that Garza had that kind of focus. The hard-to-teach ability to zero in on the task at hand and block out everything else was prevalent.
“Ralph has a great temperament for being a closer because he’s very competitive, but he’s very calm in those situations,” Pinzino said. “He’s the same guy whether he’s in a four-run game or we bring him in with guys on base in a tie game. We know what we’re going to get from him. He’s going to stay relaxed and throw it in the bottom of the strike zone.”