‘This is the Jess I have been waiting for:’ Jessica Garcia finds her place at WSU

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Mia Hennen / The Sunflower

Sophomore Jessica Garcia takes a swing during WSU’s game against Memphis on April 23 at Wilkins Stadium.

Jessica Garcia is a native from Shawnee, Kansas. She attended Mill Valley High School as a four-year starter under the direction of Head Coach Jessica DeWild, but when she joined the Shockers as a freshman, she knew she had a lot to learn right away.

With the Jaguars, Garcia holds the current career records in home runs and doubles, and single-season records in home runs and doubles. She also made the First Team All-Conference honors three times and First Team All-State honors twice. Garcia helped Mill Valley win the regional championship during her first three years on the team.

Last season, Garcia joined the Shockers but was primarily used as a pinch hitter. She made her collegiate debut in the season opener starting at third base against Tarleton State on Feb. 20, hitting her first career home run that same week against Creighton in a clean sweep. As a pinch hitter, Garcia helped the Shockers upset nationally ranked Oklahoma State with a pinch hit solo home run.

Garcia was determined to make the starting lineup with the Shockers. She listened to former catcher Madison Perrigan on her tips for success.

“Butters is just a great leader and a great individual,” Garcia said. “She really helped me and taught me what I had to work on as a player and what her hitting styles [were] and her hitting philosophies. I really took into account everything she was telling me and just put it into my game.” 

Garcia developed her skill coming into the 2022 season. She was promoted from a pinch hitter to a utility player. She has been seen playing as a catcher and, most recently, third base.

“I really just took what Coach B was telling me off of the off season and all of last season,” Garcia said.

Although she did start the season as a starter, that changed about a month ago.

“[She’s] just giving us a reason to put her in the lineup,” Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “I think she kind of had her aha moment and about three four weeks ago and really just kind of started to open her ears a little bit more and get more focused on her at bats and you can tell, she’s made a small adjustment to her swing and it’s really paying off.”

Garcia has been a consistent power threat throughout the season, launching five homers and has a .365 batting average.

“I think in particular with her, she has just slowly focused on a couple things more, not that she hadn’t been doing that, but she is just focusing more on a couple of things, and those couple of things have been helping her,” junior Lauren Mills said. “I think Coach E talks to all of us individually and I think that we finally got something going on because once you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. I that that she’s going to hit a lot more bombs in the future, she’s going to hit a lot more balls in the future and I think this whole team, the way we’re going is going to be the exact same thing we do today hitting bombs.”

According to Bredbenner, Mills and Garcia are a power duo and leaving them off the lineup is a difficult decision. During their most recent matchup against Memphis, the two knocked multiple homers out of the ballpark.

“For her, I think she has been working on her skills more and that has really been paying off for her,” Mills said. “I’m very happy and super proud of her because this is the Jess I have been waiting for.”

The Shockers are currently second in the conference with a 10-1 record on an overall eight game winning streak trailing only the UCF Knights. The Shockers go into each game with confidence, and Garcia enjoys being a part of the success.

“I am really just focusing on what my role is on this team,” Garcia said. “Coach B and Coach E are great coaches to have, and they’ve really put me on the right path and they found what works for me as a player. I think finding that and developing that has really helped me this season.”