Brytowski Has Found Her Home In the Circle
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Hopedale’s Lizzie Brytowski originally hated the idea of playing softball, but then one day while her father was practicing with her older sister, Caroline, things all changed for her.
“My dad told me to pick up a bat and swing it. Then he pitched me a few balls and I was hooked immediately,” Brytowski said. “I found a fascination in hitting a ball with a bat to see how far it would go. I’ve been playing ever since.”
While the thoughts of slamming a softball with a bat brought Brytowksi an overwhelming sense of pride, it would be pitching that would eventually bring her the most joy.
Around the fourth grade she was given the opportunity to pitch and just like that first day of picking up a bat, she found that her new-found position was something that she truly loved doing.
“Being in the spot light was amazing,” she said, “But to be able to control a game while also helping my teammates win was an even greater feeling.”
When Covid hit, sports were put on the backburner and forgotten about for about a year. When they were opened up once again Brytowski found that she was entering high school as a freshman and really didn’t know how things were going to be in regard to sports. She found that the high school tryouts were stressful and was unsure of where she would end up. In the long run it really didn’t matter as long as she had a spot on one of the teams.
Brytowski made the varsity squad that year, but unfortunately the Blue Raiders already had a phenomenal pitcher in senior Bianca Fitch. With the senior hurler in the circle the incoming freshman was designated to the outfield.
“I would have much rather pitched, especially since I hadn’t played the outfield in as long as I can remember,” Brytowski said. “Bianca was a talented pitcher, and I really learned a lot from watching her. She never seemed to get mad, and this influenced me.”
The following year Fitch was gone, and the pitching duties fell primarily on Brytowski, but the first-year starter found herself in a tough situation at the beginning of the season.
“My sophomore year was very stressful in the beginning because of what Bianca had done the previous year, (Fitch and the Blue Raiders won the Division 3 Central Championship),” she said. “Things eventually got easier as I basically had the same team behind me that she had.”
Hopedale rode the arm of Brytowski into the Division 5 State Tournament with wins over Athol and Bristol County before being shut out by Greenfield, the number one seed and eventual Champion.
Over the course of her first season pitching for Hopedale, the sophomore amassed 180 strikeouts in the circle. This year she has exceeded the 300 mark during her career and still has tournament play this year as well as all through next year to add to that total.
According to Hopedale Coach Jim Casey, Brytowski is not only a fiery individual, but she is also the ultimate competitor when she enters the circle. Hopedale went 11-5 (7-1 in the DVC to capture a share of the league championship) with Brytowski taking the ball about 90% of the time.
“She wants the ball all the time and doesn’t want to come out, she wants to pitch every inning of every game,” Casey said. “Striking out 100-200 batters a year is a legitimate high school pitcher; to have 300 plus in her career should get her some Division 2 and 3 (colleges) sniffs and to end your career with 500-600 is remarkable.”
Getting 500 strikeouts is definitely on Brytowski’s mind, especially having already eclipsed 300 in her first two seasons.
“I’ve thought about it, and it is achievable although not 100 % certain at this time it will happen, but it is my top individual goal,” the junior hurler said. “I want it to keep going, I guess it’s a bit of greediness on my part, but I want to get better as I go along.”
The Blue Raider coach noted that his pitcher has also done some work at Planet Fast Pitch in Uxbridge helping to mentor and coach young pitchers. When Hopedale happened to square off against Sutton in the earlier part of the season, one of Brytowski’s pupils was pitching against her. Luckily Hopedale was able to walk off the field with a win.
“I had helped her with her mechanics at Planet Fast Pitch and then had to face her,” Brytowksi said. “It was weird, but I think that I knew her motion better than she did, and it was able to help us.”
Having fanned 180 in her first-year pitching, Brytowski had hoped to hit 200 this season. At the time of this writing, she had not completed that goal as Hopedale was getting ready to enter the State Tournament.
“As we get ready for the tournament I am hoping that we can go deep,” she said. “If we don’t get past the first round I will be really disappointed for the team as we will be losing six seniors and I won’t get to play with them ever again.”
While the team means so much to the junior hurler, it will be senior catcher, Franny Fitch, that will be missed the most come next spring.
“She is very important to me; I wouldn’t have a single strikeout if it wasn’t for her. She is easily the energy of the team and picks everyone up,” Brytowski said. “She has been catching me for the past two years and it is going to be a really different vibe without her next year. Franny and I have been on the same page with almost every call, she knows my best pitches and knows me best as a person.”
It may be a totally different feeling come next season when Brytowski is paired with another catcher, but for the remainder of the season Hopedale is looking to roll through the Division 5 State Tournament with its seniors one last time.