By Jeff Appelblatt
Year after year, Woodbridge High School could only guarantee a victory when ace pitcher Harry Rutkowski was on the hill. But he was never throwing more than once every five days, so the Barrons never knew what was in store the other games.
Even early this season, head coach Lou Urbano wasn’t sure what his team would do as competition got tougher. He questioned his team’s ability to score.
But it’s been as if Rutkowski and his fellow pitching staff made a deal they’d all pitch great if Rutkowski would swing for the fences more often. Rutkowski batted at least twice in 27 of Woodbridge’s first 29 games, and he had at least one hit in 21 of them. In fact, a .500 batting average, 32 RBIs and 10 home runs has led to the lefty being considered one of the best hitters in the state.
He’s already assured everyone he won’t ever put hitting before pitching, though.
“No matter how good hitting the ball over the fence feels, making someone walk back to the dugout on three pitches is my favorite,” Rutkowski said earlier in the season.
Through eight starts — all victories for the Rutgers University-bound pitcher — the lefty gave up only six earned runs and only 20 hits. Three of those runs were to Perth Amboy High School in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament — a game Woodbridge won, 13-3.
Woodbridge was eliminated in the GMC Tournament semifinals when it was outplayed and outscored by Monroe Township High School, 3-1.
But so much of the season has been fantastic for Woodbridge.
Rutkowski has arguably been Woodbridge’s best hitter, and Zach Delvalle has been about as dominant on the mound as the ace. Through 10 appearances on the hill, the junior has nine wins and a 2.92 ERA. If Rutkowski’s ERA wasn’t a razor-thin 0.76, teams wouldn’t necessarily be sure which of the two they were facing.
Perhaps first-time opponents may still know. Woodbridge’s ace has struck out nearly two batters per inning this year. Delvalle is short of one per inning.
Last year, Delvalle only threw 13 innings for the Barrons, picking up two wins and a loss along the way.
Carlos Marte, one of Woodbridge’s three main starting pitchers this year, hasn’t been able to replicate the strikeouts either, but the junior has done his best to keep his ERA relatively close to Rutkowski’s. Through six starts, Marte’s ERA sat at 1.67.
At the plate, alongside Rutkowski’s .500 average, Marte, Zach Joe, Trevor Cykowski and Joe Muccilli have batted .370, .354, .311 and .309, respectively.
Rutkowski pitched against Elizabeth High School in the second round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey, Section II, Group IV tournament, and the Barrons won that contest, 12-0, May 25. He pitched all five innings, struck out 10 and gave up just one hit. At the plate, the lefty batted 1-for-1, had an RBI and walked twice.
Joe and Josepher Gutierrez each knocked in three runs vs. Elizabeth.
Woodbridge had off until the semifinals May 30.