Lakeside Recovery pitcher Brandon Mahovlich gasses competition

July 17, 2012

By Matt Carstens

Brandon Mahovlich smokes in a pitch for Lakeside Recovery to a batter from Pacific Tech Construction in the fourth inning July 14 during the Brandy Pugh Memorial Tournament at Bannerwood Park. By Greg Farrar

Lakeside Recovery catcher Jim Sinatro squatted down behind the plate July 14 at Bannerwood Field. As pitcher Brandon Mahovlich peered in for the sign, Sinatro extended only his index finger.

The tall redhead delivered his signature fastball. A hush came over the visiting parents. One parent had a radar gun. It registered 93 mph.

“Where’s this kid from?” the parent asked.

“Issaquah, I think,” another replied.

The man put away his radar gun. The deafening pop of Sinatro’s catcher’s mitt told him all he needs to know.

Mahovlich went on to strike out the side, surrendering only a seeing eye, groundball single.

“When he’s on, it’s pretty easy because he hits his spots really well,” Sinatro said. “When he has the curveball it’s really sharp, it keeps hitters off balance a lot.”

Sinatro is in his second season playing for Lakeside. During the year he attends Skyline High School, where he has to step in the batters box against Mahovlich. Unsurprisingly, he prefers to be behind the plate rather than at it.

“It jumps on you, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “You gotta go up there with a good approach if you want a chance.”

Although it’s not a comfortable experience, Sinatro does have the bragging rights.

“He struck me out once at this tournament so he gives me crap about that,” Sinatro said. “But it was one at bat, and then I have two hits off him, so I’m 2-4 off him with a double and an RBI.“

Learning to pitch

Ever since pitching was an option, Mahovlich picked up the ball.

Brandon Mahovlich

“I’ve pitched ever since I could,” he said. “When Kid Pitch started I think like third grade, I always loved pitching.”

He admits he hasn’t always been good at it though. Mahovlich started to take his craft more seriously in the off-season between his sophomore and junior season.

With the help of a pitching coach, Mahovlich changed his mechanics and started hitting the weight room. He made varsity for the first time that season and it was well-deserved.

“He’s gotten better every single year,” Issaquah High School and Lakeside Recovery head coach Rob Reese said. “And, obviously, that’s what everybody’s looking for, to see improvement in his game and he’s developed into one of the top pitchers in Washington.”

Reese could tell how far Mahovlich had come in the off-season.

“He’s got a good work ethic, he’s a hard worker, he loves baseball,” he said. “He puts in a lot of time for it and it really shows with the improvement he’s made every year.”

High, stinky, cheddar

When Mahovlich started his junior year, everyone noticed there was a little something different about him. He was a little bit taller, a little bit bigger and his four-seamer had a little more…umph.

Lakeside plays in tournament championship

Lakeside Recovery went 4-1 in the Brandy Pugh Memorial Classic July 11-16.

The team outscored its opponents 35-16 in their first five games and made it to the championship game that was played July 16. Results were not available.

The team had a record of 23-11 by July 15.

Mahovlich took his new repertoire to the mound at Safeco Field. The adrenaline might have been flowing with the awe of the 47,000-seat stadium, but as he collected himself and threw his first fastball, he looked up on the scoreboard. The two magic digits every kid dreams of flashed up on the screen, “90 MPH.”

“It felt great,” Mahovlich said. “To see that I hit 90 was a great feeling. It’s hard not to look up there.”

Mahovlich wasn’t the only one looking up there. Pretty soon scouts and colleges from around the country were attending Issaquah baseball games.

“Once he hit 90 on the radar gun I swear every scout and college coach in the world is around watching you,” Reese said. “Once he broke that barrier everybody in the world is there but you have to keep developing your game as a pitcher and learn how to pitch.”

And Mahovlich did just that, developing a spike curve and a change up.

“He’s gotten a lot better,” Reese said. “There’s days where he’s on and there’s innings where he dominates and you can’t even touch him, but like anybody else if you get behind or if you can’t get your curveball over sometimes you get hit a little bit.”

Mahovlich averaged around nine strikeouts a game this past high school season, but got roughed up a little bit in June 14 against Pac Tech Construction.

“I felt pretty good out there, just made a couple mistakes that one inning and they jumped on it,” Mahovlich said. “Fastballs right over the middle of the plate, didn’t get them out enough or in enough.”

Reese thinks the difference is the competitiveness of the summer league versus the high school season.

“This high school season he kind of dominated from the first inning to the seventh inning,” Reese said. “In the summer some of the teams he’s pitched against are a little better quality than he’s used to. These summer teams are loaded 1-9.”

Getting ready for pro ball

Mahovlich told the pro scouts that he was set on going to college, so he went undrafted in the Major League Baseball draft. ESPN.com draft analyst Jason Churchill had Mahovlich going between the eighth and 16th rounds on his draft board.

As of right now he plans to attend Bellevue College in the fall, but still has a few offers on the table.

“I know West Virginia offered him a scholarship so he’s going to take a trip out there as soon as this tournament’s over,” Reese said. “But Bellevue has one of the best pitching coaches around, so his development could really get better every year.”

Wherever Mahovlich decides to go and however he decides to get there, his coaches and teammates know that his talent and work ethic won’t get in the way.

Matt Carstens: 392-6434 ext. 236, or  ip-sports@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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