Parks and Rec: Freshman provides a late-game spark for Bulldogs
Georgia freshman Parks Harber comes up big
Georgia infielder Parks Harber (8) during a game against Kennesaw State at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
(It was a real Parks and Rec drama at Foley Field on Tuesday night.)
In the bottom of the tenth, in a game where Georgia trailed all night until the previous inning, freshman Parks Harber provided his team a spark as he sent a ball flying over the left-field wall to solidify a 3-2 victory.
Moments like those are hard to come by and Harber knew it is going to be something he will remember for a long time.
“It’s a special moment, just kind of something you dream about when you commit here to play in the SEC and play at such a great school like Georgia,” Harber said.
Harber added that it’s a scenario that every kid dreams about growing up.
“My adrenaline was running, my energy was up and just kind of seeing all the smiles on my teammates’ faces just really got me excited,” he said.
See Harber’s walk-off home run below:
So far, Harber is having a fantastic freshman season as he boasts a .241 batting average. He’s collected seven hits on the season in 27 plate appearances, including two home runs. Harber also has five RBIs so far, which is good for seventh on the team.
It seems that with every at-bat, the Westminster Academy product grows more confident, and he said it propels his teammates’ energy boost, too.
"I think in baseball the mental part of the game is huge; I think if you think you’re going to get the hit or if you’re going to make the play then you’re going to make the play,” Harber said. “Then if you don’t think that way you might not be as successful. So, I think the confidence - this would definitely help our confidence level on the team. As Coach Daeley said we are a really good team. So, we need to have confidence in ourselves. I think this would be a big boost heading into the weekend, just to get that W, which is huge.”
This past weekend, Georgia (15-5, 1-2) dropped two of three games to No. 12 Tennessee in the SEC series opener. The Bulldogs were outscored 19-12 this past weekend. It was evident that the Volunteers’ strong pitching performances kept the home team off-balance, which is something that Kennesaw State’s staff did on Tuesday night. Nevertheless, somehow Georgia still found a way to claw back and complete its fourth walk-off win of the year.
Harber’s late-game heroics just might be what the Bulldogs need as a series at Texas A&M awaits.
Assistant coach Scott Daeley said that there are not that many freshmen who can do what Harber has accomplished so far.
“You don’t find too many freshmen who have that feel for hitting, who have that kind of power, can control the bat and handle a bunch of different pitches,” Daeley said. “For me, it was huge to see him not have his best day to that point, to be struggling and still be able to get to that point and put a good swing on it.”
Tuesday night was Harber’s seven straight start for Georgia. In six of those seven starts, he has carved out a hit, which is impressive, to say the least. His only other dinger of the year came in a win over Lipscomb on March 13. As the season has progressed, he is finally starting to get accustomed to the speed of the next level. It’s something that Harber feels like he’s on the cusp of.
“I think the biggest thing is just the approach,” Harber said. “Knowing what you want to do with the ball because there are some strikes that, just because it’s a strike doesn’t mean you can drive it.”
To Daeley, it’s all about timing and finding the right balance.
“He has a feel for, ‘Hey, this guy’s going to attack me this way,’” Daeley said. “He didn’t always execute, as freshmen do, but a lot of the conversation was, ‘Hey, I was looking breaking ball right there,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, right on.’ That is the right idea, but maybe he chased one down. He was halfway there. He was looking for the right pitch, but just didn’t execute.”
For Harber, it’s a real slow-your-roll type of moment when stepping up to the plate.
“I think the at-bat before that, it was three fastballs, and I struck out,” Harber said.
”I was really sped up. I caught myself guessing a little bit. The biggest thing that slowed me down though, was just the pitching staff. After the first inning, they really kind of shut them down. That was a deep breath in itself knowing they had our back, and that we were going to come through.”
Harber was 0-for-4 before his game-winning home run.
Following Saturday’s walk-off win…
DogWatch caught Harber in the parking lot and he posed for a picture with the infamous StrapDawg
Other notes of importance…
On the other hand, Georgia used a combined eight pitchers in Tuesday’s victory.
Kennesaw State drew first blood in the top of the first inning off starter Charlie Goldstein, who gave up two runs. Although, after that, seven more Bulldog pitchers shut down the Owls and limited them to only four hits.
Luke Wagner, Hank Bearden, Liam Sullivan, Michael Polk, Will Pearson, Ben Harris and Nolan Crisp were the other Bulldog pitchers on Tuesday.
Crisp (1-0) was awarded the win and was the only man on the hill to go more than one full inning.
“I thought our guys did a great job,” Daeley said. “Obviously, they (pitching staff) kept us in it when we had absolutely nothing going on offensively so you have to give those guys a lot of credit. They just needed to have some success, especially after maybe having a rough weekend or things didn’t go their way. Going out there, finding some success, sometimes that’s all people need, for a ball to find a glove one time and they’re able to take a deep breath and be the guy that they always are.”
Daeley was thoroughly impressed with Crisp as well.
“All those guys did well, and Nolan, he’s really kind of turned the corner these last couple of weeks,” he said. “He’s out there pitching with confidence, and his stuff looks good. We feel really good with him on the mound. He throws strikes, he attacks. There’s a lot to like with Nolan.”