USC shortstop more vocal leader, improved hitter for softball this season
With her team down and the game on the line against the University of Texas-Arlington, senior Samie Garcia stepped into the batter’s box with two runners in scoring position. She hit a two-RBI triple to put the Gamecocks ahead late.
Though the USC softball team lost the game, it’s getting used to Garcia’s name being associated with crucial moments.
“That’s what you want — your big players to make the big plays,” softball coach Beverly Smith said. “It was a perfect example of Samie’s competitive nature.”
It’s Garcia’s will to win that rubs off on her teammates.
“Her drive and willingness to do anything it takes to be out on top, it really makes us want to do anything we can to help her,” senior Kelley Dillon said. “We see how much effort she’s giving and how hard she’s working. We all just want to compensate and get on her level.”
Through the first nine games, Garcia is hitting .594, which is the best on the team. She also leads the Gamecocks in runs scored and hits. The most recent triple she hit against UT Arlington gave her five for the season.
Garcia said her confidence is high right now and believes her success comes from her experience. In her third year on the team, she has learned to make adjustments whenever she does something wrong at the plate and focuses on it for the next at-bat.
Garcia is the Gamecocks’ leadoff hitter and demonstrates a typical leadoff hitter mindset to get on base.
“My approach is to just always hit the ball hard,” she said. “I just always try to have good contact and be a tough out. I know that with my speed, if I hit it hard on the ground, or hit it hard period, I’m going to be a threat to the other team.”
“The nice thing about Samie is that she’s got a good eye at the plate,” Smith said. “She’s also somebody who reads the defense well and understands what the pitcher’s throwing her.”
The intensity Garcia brings to the plate, she also brings to the field. The shortstop said her position is like being the field general because it requires communicating with the positions around her.
Since being named captain, Garcia has become much more vocal off the field, too. She said she shares her insight of the game and what she has learned throughout the years to the younger players on the team.
“By nature, I think Samie is quiet,” Smith said, “But I think the job calls for her to be more vocal and spread her leadership a little more. She’s definitely risen to the challenge there.”
Garcia said her biggest influence is her dad. Back in her hometown of Bell, Calif., she didn’t always get the playing time she wanted. Colleges weren’t recruiting her like she wanted either. Through it all, her father was always there.
“He was always like, ‘Samie, you’re good — if you keep working hard, you’re going to be great,’” Garcia said. “He was always that constant reminder of how good I could be if I put in the hard work.”
Garcia’s teammates say that when she is not focusing on softball, her personality reflects her hometown.
“She’s got that ‘Cali Swag,’” said Dillon, who is also Garcia’s roommate. “She brings a lot of variety, and she’s really fun to hang out with. I really couldn’t ask for a better person to room with.”
“I like to go with the flow,” Garcia said. “Whatever my teammates are doing, I kind of just do whatever they want.”
Personal goals take a back seat to the team goals for Garcia. She wants to keep having quality at-bats and be a tough out every time, but she has bigger dreams for the Gamecocks.
“My goal is for the team to make it to regionals,” she said. “Postseason is what I wanted for the past two years, and we haven’t been able to get there. So that’s my No. 1 goal.”
Smith thinks Garcia has a chance to lead the Gamecocks to even bigger things.
“We’ve got goals this season to get to the NCCA tournament, the SEC tournament and win the National Championship,” she said. “So that’s what we’re looking to do, and Samie will certainly be a big part in that.”