At Windermere High, a stable of pitchers is looking to propel the program forward in its second season.
In the game of baseball, there are a lot of things that separate the good teams from the bad.
Concepts like strong situational hitting and smart base running can make a big difference, but it’s the action on the mound where most coaches will tell you a baseball game is won and lost.
Luckily for the Windermere baseball team, the Wolverines have a pitching staff that any program would love to have — the team knew what is had coming into the season.
“We knew we were going to have some good talent,” said junior Carson Montgomery, a FSU verbal commit. “I just think the area is insane for baseball, because it’s Florida. We have three kids going ACC and another kid going D1, and one that was going D1 before — we could have five D1 players. It’s crazy.”
Montgomery is one of the big arms that head coach Eric Lassiter has starting for the Wolverines, alongside teammate Bryce Hubbart. Throw in closer Palmer Bittick and you have a trio of guys who toss shutout inning after shutout inning.
While each offers up his own specialities, the duo of Hubbart and Montgomery are the guys who bring MLB levels of heat.
Each has a couple of different pitches that they utilize throughout a game, but it’s the fast ball that is really Hubbart and Montgomery’s bread and butter. Right now Hubbart works with a fastball that peaks out around 92 miles per hour, while Montgomery’s heater has been sitting at 92 to 93 miles per hour, while hitting 96 at some points in time.
The crazy thing is that when they’re up pitching, they don’t even realize just how fast they’re throwing.
“Most of the times you’re out there and you don’t feel like you’re throwing hard, that’s the time you’re throwing the hardest,” Montgomery said. “When you’re nice and easy, and just letting it fly, that’s when it’s the hardest.”
And being able to throw those heaters the way they do helps open batters up, Hubbart said, as a barrage of fastballs allows for a setup to other, unexpected pitches.
“Then when they’re expecting fastball, then you can flip to a curveball or changeup and get a swing and miss,” Hubbart said. “It’s one of those pitches that if you have a sharp fastball and a sharp curveball, they’re worried about one or another and it gets their mind off the one you’re going to throw.”
While the deceptive pitching is setup in Hubbart and Montgomery’s pitching game, Bittick’s style is all about deception from the get-go.
As the team’s closer, it’s up to Bittick to finish off games, which for him is helped along by his use of breaking balls that he shoots from the hip, thanks in part to his submarine style of pitching.
“The biggest thing with me is just changing eye levels, so to say that I have to rely on one pitch I don’t really — I have to mix in so much to be able to change all of these guy’s eye levels,” Bittick said. “To have a fastball that moves into guys, a slider that moves away and a changeup that moves straight down, it’s almost like a toy that we are just able to play with a little bit and have some fun out there.”
“We knew we were going to have some good talent. I just think the area is insane for baseball, because it’s Florida. We have three kids going ACC and another kid going D1, and one that was going D1 before — we could have five D1 players. It’s crazy.”
— Carson Montgomery
Bittick’s unique technique came about one evening when he was still at Olympia High School, and decided out of the blue to just do something different.
“Between my freshman year and my sophomore year, one of my buddies — who was a catcher — was practicing framing and different things and receiving the ball, and I got really bored throwing it overhand,” Bittick said. “I started messing around sidearm and, I kid you not, I was probably throwing like that for all of two minutes and the varsity coach walks up to me and goes, ‘How long have you been pitching like that?’ And I’m like, ‘Like six pitches.’”
The submarine style has also helped add on to the deceptive nature of his pitches, as throughout most of his delivery the ball is totally hidden by his body — meaning a batter won’t see it coming out of his hand until the dying second.
The hope is that between the strong arms of Hubbart and Montgomery, and the deceptive closing abilities of Bittick, that the Wolverines can have another big year before Bittick and Hubbart go off to FSU — where Hubbart will play baseball.
And as they try to make another playoff push, the pitching trio will look to enjoy their shared loved of the game of baseball one last time as high-school teammates.
“I just have a really deep love for the game,” Montgomery said. “I grew up watching it, and I saw my brother be successful and get a scholarship to a school. Ever since the first time I picked up a baseball, I loved it — I just love the feel of having a baseball in my hand.”