During a recent practice session, Westwood Christian ace and University of Miami recruit Danny Garcia gave up a huge home run to teammate Anthony Peñas, the team’s cleanup hitter.
“He has always gotten me out,” said Peñas, a third baseman who has a scholarship to rising baseball power Campbell University (N.C.). “But this time, he left a fastball over the middle of the plate.
“I hit it to dead center, over the trees. It would have been out anywhere. As soon as I hit it, I looked straight at him, and we both started laughing.”
In his defense, Garcia said he was throwing at just 70 percent capacity — it was a bullpen session, after all.
“I told him: ‘Since I didn’t get you a birthday present last year, this was it,’ ” Garcia said.
Don’t expect any gifts from Garcia on Wednesday, when Westwood (15-7-1) faces Tampa Cambridge (19-9) in a Class 2A state semifinal at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.
Garcia, a left-hander, won a state semifinal game last year. But Westwood lost 1-0 in the state final to Deltona Trinity Christian.
Trinity (16-10), hunting its third state title in the past four years, is in the other semifinal against Vero Beach Master’s Academy, which is 15-6 on the field but dropped to 9-12 because of six early season forfeits.
Westwood coach Luis Padron said the idea of holding Garcia for a possible rematch with Trinity in the final was not at all tempting.
“We’re focused on the semifinal,” Padron said.
Should Westwood reach Thursday’s final — which is scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m. — senior right-hander Jason Gutierrez would start.
Since that would be just his second start since missing virtually the entire season because of shoulder inflammation, he would likely go no more than five innings in the game.
Junior Andy Rivera and his brother, Oscar Rivera, a senior, would take over from there.
Certainly, Westwood has the credentials to get back to the final. Whereas Cambridge is making its first trip to state since 2009, Westwood can draw on last year’s experience.
In addition, Westwood played some big opponents this year, beating Class 3A state semifinalist Florida Christian 2-1 in a game pitched by Garcia. He was also on the mound when Westwood lost 3-1 to Archbishop McCarthy, which is going for its fourth consecutive state title this week in Class 6A.
Westwood also lost 6-1 to Class 8A state semifinalist American.
Given its schedule, don’t expect Garcia (4-2, 1.92 ERA) to be intimidated this week.
He will likely do the intimidating with a four-pitch assortment that has allowed him to strike out 63 batters in 47 1/3 innings.
“When Danny is on the mound,” Peñas said, “we know it will be a quick game because he is going to pound the strike zone, and he’s not going to get hit much.”
Meanwhile, Peñas leads the team in homers (six), runs (23), RBI (24), doubles (four) and on-base percentage (.558).
“When I first saw his swing a couple of years ago, I was amazed by his power,” Garcia said of Peñas. “He’s our cleanup hitter for a reason.”