Land O’ Lakes High School junior Lance McCabe Sargent admits that if you watched him throw two years ago, you’d never expect him to be one of Tampa’s top prep pitchers.
“I didn’t have the best mechanics,” said Sargent, who doubles as the Gators’ starting third baseman. “When I’d go in from third (base) to pitch, I’d be all around the place, just kind of poor mechanics. I’d just go on the mound and throw because I had a pretty decent arm, so I’d just sling it.”
Through 43 innings, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander boasts a miniscule 0.49 ERA — the best mark in Pasco County — making him one of the area’s toughest pitchers to face.
Though he’s always had a powerful arm, the Land O’ Lakes coaching staff wasn’t quite sure they had a pitching gem on their hands, until the start of the season.
“Their first words to me were, ‘Why haven’t you told me you could pitch before? Why haven’t you asked me to throw in the bullpen?’” said Sargent, who’s in his first year pitching on the varsity level after throwing extensively in summer travel ball.
“We had an idea he was a pitcher, but he didn’t pitch at all last year,” said Land O’ Lakes head coach Jeff May. “We didn’t know how good of a pitcher he was going to be — we just knew that he had a very good arm. He was a little wild when he first came up with us, but…as he’s gotten bigger and stronger, he’s been throwing harder, and it kind of dawned on us, ‘Hey, let’s give him a shot,’ and he’s performed really well.”
Sargent’s path to success this year began in the offseason and over the summer. He worked extensively with Tampa-based pitching instructor Anthony Telford, a former MLB middle reliever who spent parts of 10 seasons playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers throughout the ’90s and early ’00s.
Telford focused on improving Sargent’s pitching motion and follow-through, which has allowed the Land O’ Lakes standout to increase his fastball velocity from 82 mph to 89 mph, paving the way for a dominating junior season.
Once his senior year rolls around, Telford wouldn’t be surprised to see Sargent’s fastball velocity increase even further, perhaps reaching the low-to-mid 90s.
“He’s certainly strong enough,” Telford said. His arm action works real well — he has the athletic ability. What we focused on mostly with McCabe was just the mechanics…. of trying to get him to be able to throw the ball in the strike zone consistently.
“There’s a lot more development. He’s got the physical ability, and the thing that he does the best is he loves to compete,” Telford added.
In addition to a blazing fastball, Sargent is equipped with a curveball, slider and changeup — which he uses to keep opposing hitters off-balance.
“On the lower part of the lineup, I throw more changeups just to not waste the curveball,” said Sargent, who models his game after New York Mets all-star pitcher Jacob deGrom. “In the 3, 4 and 5 hole, I’ll mix in a curveball, because they’re a little bit better hitters.”
The difference in pitch speed between his “violent” fastball and changeup has allowed Sargent to be virtually unhittable, and roll through opposing lineups with ease in the process.
“When you throw harder, it’s going to make your off-speed pitches that much better, and he’s got a very good off-speed pitch, too,” his varsity coach said. “It’s a good one-two punch.”
“He’s got a natural ability that you can’t teach a lot of guys, which when you’re a coach, you’re immediately drawn to it,” May added. “He’s in the learning curve right now of becoming a good pitcher; he’s got the tools, and he’s (still) learning the game of pitching, too.”
Sargent’s current stats and high ceiling have already caught the eyes of several major Division I collegiate baseball programs, including the University of Central Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Alabama A&M, Stetson University, Radford (Virginia) University and High Point (North Carolina) University.
As he manages the extra attention — getting inundated with phone calls and messages from college coaches — Sargent is trying to stay focused on the task at hand: leading Land O’ Lakes (20-3) through a deep playoff run.
Beyond that, the right-hander has a more ambitious long-term goal in mind.
“My main goal has always been to play in the big leagues,” he said. “Since I was a little kid, that’s what I grew up wanting to do.”
Lance McCabe Sargent
Land O’ Lakes junior starting pitcher and third baseman
Pitching Stats: 43 innings pitched, 3 complete games, 7 wins, 0.49 ERA, 53 strikeouts, .137 opponent batting average
Batting Stats: .394 batting average, 1 home run, 6 extra base hits, 17 runs, 16 RBIs
Travel Club: Orlando Scorpions
College interest: University of Central Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Alabama A&M, Stetson University, Radford (Virginia) University and High Point (North Carolina) University.
MLB pitching comparison: New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom
Published April 20, 2016