June 28, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Legend says that in the fifth inning of Game 3 in the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Babe Ruth pointed to the center-field bleachers and called his shot.
Well, on May 15, 2012, in the bottom of 11th inning against New Mexico State, University of New Mexico catcher Mitchell Garver did the same.
With the score tied at 10 apiece, a runner on first, and facing an 0-2 count, Garver blasted a walk-off home run to defeat the Aggies and snap the Lobos’ five-game losing streak against their in-state rivals.
But it was what happened before the inning started that truly stood out in Ray Birmingham’s mind.
"(He) came up to me right before that last at-bat and he said, `Do you want to see a walk-off?' I said, 'I sure do,'" the UNM head coach said. "How about that? He called it."
There was no finger pointing, or any type of theatrics by the junior catcher for that matter, but it was still prescient nonetheless.
Garver said he looked at two sliders inside before deciding to attack a third that was low, but more to the middle of the plate.
"The third one was a slider that was low and I kind of golfed it out of the yard," he said. "I can't believe it got out. I just swung at it and blacked out (running) around the bases. It felt great."
The home run capped a fantastic game by the two sides. The Aggies jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before the Lobos came back to take a 7-4 lead of their own.
After NMSU tied the game at seven in the seventh, the teams matched scoring with two in the eighth and one in the ninth to send the game to extra innings and set the stage for Garver’s heroics.
In an incredibly even game, each team knocked out 17 hits and each staff used seven pitchers. In the end, though, it took the foresight of the Lobo's catcher from Albuquerque to make the difference and give UNM its first victory over NMSU since Mar. 10, 2010.
It was only one win out of 37 for the Lobos in 2012, but it was definitely one of the most exciting and certainly one of the most satisfying.
It also was just one highlight out of many for Garver last season as he earned Co-Mountain West Player of the Year honors with teammate DJ Peterson and was named to four All-America teams.
He was also named one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, which is given annually to the best catcher in the country. It will be presented Thursday night at the 15th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet. Johnny Bench recently talked to the MLB Network about Garver and the award. You can view the video here.