KENNEWICK -- For Garrett Anderson, it's when he feels most cool and calm. For his coach, Ryan Carter, it's a chance to breathe a little easier.
It seems whenever Kamiakin's ace left-hander takes the hill, everyone feels a little more at ease. Well, everyone except the guy digging in at the batter's box.
"It's definitely comforting to have him on our side -- just flip him the ball and feel really good about our chances," Carter said of his senior hurler. "He's going to keep us in games. He's got a tremendous amount of confidence, and the kids behind him have a tremendous amount of confidence."
And why not?
Anderson has yet to lose a regular-season game in his varsity career -- he's 13-0, including a 3-0 start this season with 12 strikeouts in 15 innings and a 0.93 ERA.
He was named the CBBN Cascade Division pitcher of the year last year, going 7-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 48 innings. He was even sharper in the postseason despite suffering his only loss, giving up just one run in nine innings of work.
With a strikeout ratio of about one an inning and a 6-foot-4 frame sturdy enough for him to be the school's career rebounding leader in basketball, Anderson has all the packaging of a fireballer on the mound. But really, it's his curveball combined with his pitching IQ that makes him so tough.
"My breaking ball has been one of my best, if not my very best pitches since I was 9 years old," he said, adding that it's the product of a lot of work with his dad, Tim, and a lot of film study of his own mechanics.
"It's the No. 1 pitch you can hurt yourself on, so we really worked on the over-the-top spin. Over the years, it turned into a huge breaker instead of a small curve, but I'm comfortable with it."
Comfortable enough to use it on hitter's counts when he needs a strike. He also has worked in a changeup this season to complement a fastball that touches 85 mph.
All of that works toward a goal that seems counterintuitive to shut-down pitching: cutting down on his strikeouts.
Actually, it's about cutting down on his pitch count, which means more ground balls and fewer wasted pitches and deeper counts. He hopes that will translate into being fresher for the Tuesday-Friday turnaround in the league season.
And what a league it is.
With Kamiakin, Southridge, Kennewick, Hanford, Eastmont and West Valley, the CBBN figures to have six of the state's top 12 Class 3A teams.
"There is not a single bad team, and every single game, if you don't execute what you're trying to do, you will lose," Anderson said. "It's not if you lose -- you will lose.
"All three of us (in Kennewick) are just stacked. The Southridge lineup, the Kennewick lineup -- from a pitcher's standpoint, those two are pretty loaded."
And as Kamiakin's bona fide ace, Anderson always draws the other team's toughest pitcher, and it makes for some thrilling ball when Hanford's Dan Scheibe, Southridge's Bryce Jackson or Eastmont's Ian Sagdal is on the hill.
Those are games Anderson relishes the most and is at his best. Last year, he spun his first varsity no-hitter against Sagdal for a 2-0 victory. His favorite game was a one-hitter he threw against Hanford when Scheibe threw a two-hitter and the Braves won 1-0.
"There's definitely a No. 1 vs. No. 1, and you want to show who is the No. 1," Anderson said. "Every single game I pitch, I know I'm facing someone on the other side, and he's the No. 1 on his team. He's going to be good, and I just try to go out there and keep them scoring as few runs as possible."
Anderson was a solid No. 2 guy for the Braves as a sophomore, pitching behind Kody Young, now at Columbia Basin College. But he made a big jump in his junior year, lowering his ERA from 4.77 to 1.31.
He credits the summer he spent playing American Legion ball for the Twin City Titans and, like many pitchers before him, his work with coach Steve Farrington, who also coaches CBC.
"That was the big factor," Anderson said. "I had all the physical keys. I just didn't have the mental picture of it. I didn't know what to pitch and when to pitch. I just knew to pitch."
That summer, he went from a thrower to a pitcher, and those lessons have stuck. Anderson hopes they will lead to a career in college. He doesn't have that nailed down just yet, but if he can pick up a few more mph on his fastball, the doors likely will fly open for a big lefty with good location.
Despite his sterling numbers, Anderson said he felt he and his teammates left a lot on the table last season, which ended with a sloppy loss to Southridge early in the district tournament.
"You can say it was that game, but really, it was the whole season," said Anderson, who along with the rest of the Braves open their CBBN 3A season at 2 p.m. today with a pair against Southridge at LaPierre Field.
"We lost a lot of games that we shouldn't have ... little mistakes here and there that built up throughout the year. If we had a better regular season, we might not have been playing in a loser-out game."
With their team stocked full of seniors, many of whom played on Kamiakin's state runner-up football team and Anderson a member of the basketball team that placed third at state, the Braves have high expectations for this season.
"We have guys who really, really want to get it done this year," Anderson said. "We want to leave behind something for the younger guys to look forward to."
Makes sense, because they'll be giving the rest of the league something to look forward to: Anderson's graduation.
* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; firstname.lastname@example.org