By Eric Schmidt

With about two weeks to go, Southwest Florida Baseball teams are getting ready for the 2012 season. Along with a new season also comes a re-alignment of some new districts. One team, The Island Coast Gators, is making the biggest jump. Only in existence for 3 years, the Gators are going from district 4A-12 to district 6A-13

Let’s analyze the difference between the two districts. In 4A-12 the district was made up of the following teams. Bishop Verot,  Island Coast, Gateway Charter, Dunbar, and LaBelle. In district 6A-13  Island Coast is matched up with Ida Baker, Riverdale, Ft. Myers, and South Fort Myers. I asked Head Coach Clinton Montgomery of the Gators how the re-alignment of districts is going to affect him. “It’s going to be very competitive. There is no easy win here. I’m expecting all teams to be above .500. It’s going to be tough for everyone.”

Now,  if you know anything about High School baseball here in Southwest Florida, Dunbar and Gateway Charter are not your powerhouses when it comes to baseball. But LaBelle and Bishop Verot can beat you on any given day. As is evident by last year’s State Champion Bishop Verot. So how does Island Coast deal with its new competition?

Coach Montgomery, who boasts a 50-30 record as head coach of the Gators, will be relying on his assistant coaches and a wealth of young pitching to carry his team to the district title. First, Coach Montgomery, has four assistant coaches working on the field day in and out developing the talents of his ball players. David Montgomery, the father of Head coach Clinton Montgomery, has forgot more baseball than most people remember. He has been around baseball his entire life and is the mentor to his son. Next is Jason Cooper. A former standout  player from FGCU. Cooper, who also works at Island Coast, has the responsibility of  developing the young pitching staff. Another assistant, Ron “Shorty” Petito, has spent time in the minor leagues with the White Sox. A fiery competitor, Petito, has the players in a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to practice and game time. And new to the staff this year is Ryan Horton. Besides having one of the most knowledgeable coaching staffs in the area Coach Montgomery will also be relying heavily on his pitching staff backed by a solid defense.

The only senior on the pitching staff is Pablo Matos. His fastball has been clocked at 86 m.p.h. Matos, who has committed to playing baseball at  The University of Science in Philadelphia, can also platoon at first base. Probably the craftiest of his pitchers is Tanner Renegar. A lefty, Renegar, is a 3-pitch pitcher. He keeps the batters off balance by using a wicked curveball that helps off set his fastball along with his changeup. Renegar, who is a junior, is a 3 year starter that Coach Montgomery is expecting big things of this year. One of Montgomery’s star players is Kameron Gellinger. Gellinger, who has already committed to The University of Central Florida, is a junior who’s natural position is shortstop. However, Gellinger has an arm, throwing at 86 mph.  Gellinger not only can play short and pitch but he can run like a deer. Gellinger has been clocked at 6.67 in the 60 yd. dash, he is a phenomenal athlete to watch play. The hardest throwing pitcher is actually an outfielder. F.T. Corso can bring the heat. His fastball hits 88 m.p.h. Only a junior, Corso, also has another weapon. His bat. Corso can hit and will take the ball out of the park. Another junior is Brennan “B-Rod” Rodriguez. A utility infielder that can play anywhere on the field has had his fastball clocked at 85 m.p.h. Rounding out the rotation is sophomore Sammy Malone. Malone can throw in the middle 80’s and as a sophomore, Coach Montgomery expects him to be near the 90’s in a year or two.

Now of course the pitching staff is never complete without a catcher. And  the Island Coast Gators have one. Randy Petito, who has also committed to playing ball at The University of Science in Philadelphia, has been the Gators starting catcher since the school opened. Petito, who’s father is one of the assistant coaches, has a cannon for an arm. So with a veteran like Petito behind the plate Coach Montgomery feels very comfortable with anyone of the six pitchers that will be taking the mound.

Besides his pitching, Coach Montgomery, will also be relying on some solid defensive play.  Cole Ondrejka, who is being looked at by schools such as, Augusta State and Florida Tech, has one of the softest hands Montgomery has ever seen. Ondrejka, who plays second base, bats lefty and can run as fast as Gellinger. Ondrejka can run a 6.8 60 yd dash. With some speed, some solid pitching, and backed by a strong defense the Gators pose to be a formidable opponent in district 6A-13.

After talking with Montgomery about his chances of winning the district tile he replied, ” We’ve been in the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years. We won the district in 2010 beating out Bishop Verot. Then lost to them in the regional semi’s on a controversial call at home plate. (See the play here.) Last year, we were runner ups in the district to eventual state champs Bishop Verot. So my kids know what it takes to win.”

With Coach Montgomery and his Gators of Island Coast already making leaps and bounds in their first 3 years, can the team make the hop, skip, and JUMP to the district 6A-13 title? We’ll have to wait and see. But, a good test will be when the Estero Wildcats come to Island Coast on Feb. 17th. Until then,  fans have to wait for the ump to say “Let’s Play Ball”




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