By BRETT MARSHALL
In the case of high school athletes and their recruiting experiences in hopes of playing at the collegiate level, it's better to be late than never.
That's how Garden City High School baseball pitcher Edgar Montoya was feeling on Tuesday after he dropped off a signed NJCAA letter-of-intent with Garden City Community College baseball coach Chris Finnegan.
Montoya, who has toiled on the mound the past two seasons for a struggling Buffaloes' program, has come into his own this summer while pitching for the Finney County Blues American Legion team.
And that's what finally caught the eye of Finnegan, the highly-successful Broncbusters' coach.
"I'm very happy he's with us and to be part of the Garden City baseball program," Finnegan said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "He's been coming to our games for quite a while. His parents come up and say hi. He's earned everything and he's a good kid with a great work ethic."
After two seasons of toiling in virtual obscurity, posting records of 3-5 and 3-6 with earned-run-averages of 5.55 and 4.13 his junior and senior seasons, Montoya has blossomed in the heat of the 2013 Blues' summer schedule.
The 6-0, 216-pounder has posted a 5-1 record for coach Lyle Befort, who also served as his pitching coach at GCHS.
In 25 innings thus far, Montoya has given up just 10 runs, seven of which were earned, walked 10 and has 24 strikeouts. His ERA is a brilliant 1.96.
"Edgar's just now learning how to use his entire body in his pitching," Befort said. "Pitching is more than just using your arm. It's using your legs and we are getting Edgar stronger and that will help him even more when he goes to the next level."
Montoya said he is thrilled with the late signing and that he will be playing in front of the home fans, including family, for another two seasons.
"I sent him (Finnegan) an email a couple of weeks ago and told him I'd be pitching in the Clanton tournament and hoped that he would be able to watch," Montoya said.
The move paid off as Montoya pitched the Blues to a 3-1 victory on Saturday night that put the team into the tournament semifinals on Sunday. In that outing, Montoya went the full seven innings, gave up just four hits, one run, walked three and recorded nine strikeouts.
"That was a strong performance and what stood out more than anything was his composure," Finnegan said of Montoya's dominance over Newton. "He throws strikes, he gets ahead of batters and he throws an off-speed pitch for strikes. Mentally, he's far ahead of a lot of kids with his composure. Other pitchers might have more velocity and others might have a better curveball, but Edgar's got the potential to be a really good pitcher.
"We've got to figure out Edgar and he's got to figure out GCCC. He's got to figure out things at the college level and how we do things and I think he's ready for that."
Montoya was appreciative of the late look he received from Finnegan after Hesston Collge was the only other school to offer him a scholarship until this past weekend.
"I've always wanted to play here and coach (Finnegan) is giving me that opportunity," Montoya said. "He told me that he's got a spot for me and that I will come and compete with the others. Overall, the recruiting stress was kind of getting to me, but it's gratifying to have that over."
Montoya, whose fastball ranges in the 79 to 83 mph range, also mixes things up with a slider, curveball and change-up.
"I've just been more trying to throw strikes and stay ahead of the batter in the count," Montoya said. "The slider has kind of been my strikeout pitch, and I'm working on trying to get a little more movement on my fastball."
Montoya said that while he is presently undecided on his academic field of study, he has interest in broadcasting after winning a couple of state awards while working on the Buffalo Broadcasting program in high school.