Shortstop Erik Forgione finishing off a blessed career at Washington
Huskies junior shortstop Erik Forgione was named defensive player of the year in the Pac-12.
Seattle Times staff reporter
NCAA Regional, UW vs. Georgia Tech, 1 p.m.
NCAA baseball Oxford (Miss.) Regional
Game 1: Washington (2 seed) vs. Georgia Tech (3), 1 p.m. PT Friday, ESPN3.
Starting pitchers: UW RHP Tyler Davis (10-2, 1.75) vs. Georgia Tech RHP Josh Heddinger (4-4, 3.64).
Notes: The Huskies (39-15) are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. … Since the move to the NCAA’s current postseason format in 1999, UW has never advanced to a second weekend super regional. … Host Mississippi, the region’s top seed, plays No. 4-seed Jacksonville State at 5 p.m. PT. Friday. … The four-day regional is a double-elimination format. … All games are scheduled to air at ESPN3.com.
The car flipped five or six times and landed upside down on Interstate 5.
Good Samaritans approached the crash fearing what they would find.
“I think they were expecting a lot worse,” Erik Forgione said.
Forgione considers himself blessed — blessed to be the starting shortstop for the 14th-ranked Washington baseball team; blessed the Huskies are bound for the postseason for the first time in 10 years; blessed he is about to be drafted by a Major League Baseball club for the second time in three years.
Blessed, too, to be alive.
A 19-year-old driver was so drunk that he later didn’t even recall getting behind the wheel, going up an onramp the wrong way and crashing head-on into Forgione’s car in Tacoma.
This was the fall of 2011, shortly after Forgione had finished his first fall practices with the Huskies. Forgione, a 2011 graduate of W.F. West High in Chehalis, was driving back to Seattle with a friend when he saw the headlights coming at him. He swerved to the left, but the drunken driver struck the back side of Forgione’s car.
“We walked away unharmed, just bumps and bruises,” Forgione said. “It was incredible.”
The drunken driver fled the scene on foot. He was soon caught and,sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Besides the bumps and bruises, Forgione had a sore back that he rehabbed for a week or two. The emotional scars took longer to heal.
“I think that took its toll on him. Like all young kids, he thought he was invincible and in just an instant was brought back to reality,” UW coach Lindsay Meggs said. “I think it grounded him a little more and made him appreciate being closer to home, to his family. I think when he got over that, it gave him some peace and some serenity.”
Forgione, a junior, was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year Wednesday. Three days earlier, before the Huskies’ regular-season finale in what was likely Forgione’s last game at Husky Ballpark, Meggs told his players they were playing with the best shortstop in the country.
“This is the guy that holds it all together,” said Meggs, the Pac-12 coach of the year. “If he doesn’t get another hit the rest of the year, I don’t care.”
Huskies right fielder Brian Wolfe called Forgione the Richard Sherman of shortstops.
“I wish I could be mic’d up for games,” Wolfe said, “because he’ll make a play, run in the hole and throw it across and in my mind I’m like, ‘Stop. No. Don’t throw that. … Oh, well, you made that look easy. I should shut my mouth.’ ”
“He’s a great baseball player,” Wolfe added. “He’s a better person off the field.”
Forgione, with his Wilson A2K 1787 glove (retail: $339.95), had just eight errors in 285 chances for the Huskies (39-15), who open NCAA regional play against Georgia Tech at 1 p.m. Friday in Oxford, Miss. He led the Pac-12 with 193 assists and was second in turning 42 double plays. His double-play partner, Andrew Ely, also was named to the all-Pac-12 defensive team.
Washington’s defense led the Pac-12 with a .981 fielding percentage. It had the league’s fewest errors (42) despite having the second-most chances (2,192).
Forgione was a 33rd-round draft choice of the Angels out of high school. Meggs doesn’t expect his shortstop, who will surely be selected again during the MLB draft next week, to be back for his senior season.
Forgione’s offensive numbers, on the surface, aren’t impressive. As UW’s No. 9 hitter, he finished the regular season with a .231 average. But he is second on the team with 12 sacrifice bunts (as a team, UW is second in the nation with 81) and is a threat to steal.
“He’s asked to do so many little things,” Wolfe said.
Baseball runs deep in the Forgione family. Erik’s father, Andy, was a shortstop at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.
Don Forgione, Erik’s grandfather, signed with the Chicago White Sox after graduating from a Chicago-area high school in 1965. A burly first baseman, he said he played one season in the minors before volunteering to serve in the Vietnam War.
Before his one-year term in Vietnam was up, he volunteered for another three-month stay. Not long after that he was shot in the leg.
He was later awarded two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars, but his baseball career was over.
“It’s tough coming back from that,” he said. “It’s tough to get your mind back together.”
This, now, is the easy part. Grandpa Forgione lives in Arizona and enjoys nothing more than watching his grandson’s games. He has regularly attended UW’s games in Arizona the past few years. Last weekend was his first trip to Seattle to see Erik play, knowing it could be his grandson’s final home games for the Huskies.
“I’ve watched them for three years, and this is great. This is what they’ve been working for,” Don Forgione said.
He is planning to follow his grandson to Mississippi for the NCAA regional this weekend, hoping to tag along for as long as this breakthrough season extends.
“I’m just so proud,” Don Forgione said.
He, too, believes he’s blessed.
• Four Huskies are among the 10 players named to the Pac-12’s all-defensive team: Forgione, Ely, catcher Austin Rei and center fielder Braden Bishop.
• Four Huskies were named to the 32-man All-Pac-12 team: Rei, Ely, Wolfe and right-hander Tyler Davis. Davis (10-2, 1.75 ERA) also was named this week one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top player.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude