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Garcia overcomes Slow Start to excel in Conference Play

Francine Garcia has twice been named Position Player of the Week in the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC) this softball season.

#27 - Francine GarciaHowever, while she takes great pride in her defense, the Weatherford College freshman first baseman/outfielder is anything but one-dimensional.

"Being a team player is what's most important to us," she said. "Nothing will ever work if we have a bunch of individuals only looking out for themselves.

"Of course, it helps to be good on the field, but knowing your role and embracing it is honestly what can make or break a team. It can mean the difference between a good team and a great team."

And the Coyotes are a great team this season, conference champions and ranked No. 9 in the nation at the time of this article. Garcia has played a key role in that success.

Along with being a solid fielder, she's one of the team's top hitters. At press time she had played in 44 games for the Coyotes, posting a .398 batting average with 14 doubles, four home runs, 37 runs batted in, 15 walks, a .463 on-base percentage, a .602 slugging percentage and 77 total bases.
"I would say that I take more pride in hitting. To me, it's the most fun part of the whole game," Garcia said.

Defensively, Garcia has made just four errors this season and has been a part of three double plays. She has a .947 fielding percentage.

"Francine has done whatever we have asked her to this season," Coyotes coach Haylee Williams said. "She has played first base, outfield, designated player, and just recently started hitting in the leadoff spot, which we needed someone there desperately.

"She has run with it and sparked offense since making the move. She is a talented, mentally tough kid who puts the needs of the team above herself."

Garcia said the back-to-back honors from the NTJCAC were validation that her hard work has paid off. It also signified her overcoming a slow start to the season.

"I worked day and night through all my frustration and anger to get out of my slump. There were many people who believed in me. I just needed to believe in myself," she said. "Slumps are very humbling in the game of softball, so when I was honored as player of the week for those two weeks I knew that I needed to keep working hard to help my team.

"Even though it was really cool, I have to keep my focus on the bigger picture winning regionals and making it to Utah (World Series)."

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Garcia made the move to WC from Moreno, California. She played for both her high school Rancho Verde and club ball, earning all-league honors.
"My high school team wasn't real strong but that didn't make me love the game any less," she said.

"Moving to Texas was a huge adjustment for me. Being away from my parents was really hard my first semester here, and it wasn't like I could just pick up and drive two and a half hours anytime I wanted. I live a 19-hour drive or three-hour plane ride away from here."

And, like so many students from elsewhere, the weather was a big adjustment for her.

"It got hot back in California but never humid. I still struggle getting used to the humidity out here," she said with a smile. "I had been to Texas just twice before I started coming to school at WC. Once was for a showcase and a few weeks later I came on my visit here."

And though she had other options, she chose WC for a variety of reasons, including the campus, coaches and facilities - which she compares to a NCAA Division I program in her home state.

"I choose WC because the campus was beautiful, there are many prestigious programs which they have to offer, the coaches were really cool and the facilities weren't anything like I had ever seen before," Garcia said. "I always compare our field to UCLA, and I honestly think that our softball stadium (Stuart Field) is better that theirs.

"I feel like I was blessed with the opportunity to play for such a competitive team on an absolutely breathtaking softball field."

After she finishes her two seasons at WC, Garcia wants to play at a higher level. But more important, she wants to enter a radiology program.

"I want to study radiology because I want to go into some form of the medical field because I really enjoy helping others," she said.

And, she said whatever lies ahead in life, softball has helped her prepare for it. Statistically, she calls it a "game of failure," though that "failure" can lead to success and a better understanding of life as a whole.

"Even the best players are going to fail more than they are going to succeed. It's almost a fact of life," she said. "That's what gets me through all of the frustrating times in this sport."

by Rick Mauch

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