He makes his way to the plate, widens his stance and locks eyes with the pitcher. The bat is held securely between his fingers as he extends his arms from behind his head and takes a monstrous swing. The crowd holds their breath as the ball soars over the heads of the outfielders and eventually makes its way over the fence and out of sight.
Bleachers rattle while fans erupt, the Madison Mallards baseball team sprints out of the dugout. Justice Bigbie is greeted by his teammates with a Gatorade shower at home plate after being the walk-off home run hero.
This scene is not an unfamiliar one for the Mallards. For the second time this season, Bigbie hit a walk-off home run to add another victory to Madisons’ record. This moment comes at no surprise to Mallards head coach Donnie Scott, who is coaching Bigbie for the second summer.
“When he plays that aggressively I expect him to get results.” Scott said. “He swung the bat well last year, but has become more aggressive this year on both defense and offense, he’s attacking the ball.”
Bigbie arrived at the Duck Pond for the first time during the 2018 summer, after completing his freshman campaign at Western Carolina University.
However, his journey to playing college baseball is not what most would call typical.
Western Carolina is the only school that offered Bigbie a chance to play baseball after high school, but with a catch. He was responsible for earning his shot. Fall of 2017, he paved his way onto the Western Carolina 35 man roster as a walk-on for the Catamounts.
“We did not even have a scholarship for Justice, he had to make it as a walk-on,” Western Carolina head coach Bobby Moranda said. “He came in knowing he was not guaranteed anything, and he made it.”
After finishing his first season as a Catamount, Bigbie proved himself worthy of recognition. He garnered Southern Conference All-Freshman teamhonors and was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, the first for Western Carolina’s baseball program since 2014.
Once he turned heads as a freshman, Morando knew he was worthy of taking his game to the next level during the summer and made sure that Bigbie would have the chance.
“Half way through his freshman season I knew he could play in the Northwoods League and I called Vern[Stenman-BTSE President],” Moranda said. “I told him Bigbie is the real deal.”