For John De La Garza, just playing college baseball was not good enough — he wanted to go to a program where he felt he could make a difference.
The all-state shortstop from Avalon decided Southwestern Assemblies of God was the best place to do that.
“It was local and close to home,” De La Garza said of reasons he selected SAGU. “And it’s a program I feel like I can help.”
In four years at Avalon, De La Garza was a two-time district MVP, a district pitcher of the Year as a sophomore and a district newcomer of the year as a freshman.
His numbers backup all the accolades as well. In his time at Avalon he was 27-8 with 408 strikeouts in 227 innings and a career ERA of 2.18. As a senior he was 8-3 with a 1.14 ERA, 138 strikeouts in 67 innings and he had 10 complete games.
He pitched two no-hitters this season, including one in the bi-district round of the playoffs when he struckout 14 of the 16 batters he faced.
“The first thing we noticed was that he had an electric arm,” SAGU head coach Greg Hayes said. “He told us right away that he wanted to put in the work to be a top player. He has a lot of talent, but he’s a humble kid that works hard too.”
While De La Garza is recognized as a pitcher, he was named all-state as a shortstop this year.
He hit .584 with 11 doubles, one triple, four home runs and 42 RBIs while only striking out eight times.
He also stole 28 bases and scored 30 runs while also being sure-handed in the field with a .959 fielding percentage.
Hayes said one of the good things about De La Garza is that when he is not pitching he can keep his bat in the lineup.
“When he’s not pitching he’ll be in the lineup somewhere I’m sure,” Hayes said. “We told him our goal was to win more games next year and he told us he’d like to come help us do that.”
De La Garza added that he does not mind playing several positions. “It doesn’t matter to me, I’ll play wherever they want me to,” he said.
De La Garza is the last of four pitchers the Lions have signed for next year.
“We signed four guys to go along with the six established arms we already have,” pitching coach Clay Scarborough said. “We feel comfortable with what we’ll start with in February.”