By Jeff Appelblatt
During the busy baseball season, it’s hard for any school or organization to think to the future, no matter how bright or unsure it may look. And on certain days, when an athlete is locked in and delivering to the best of his abilities, it’s hard to imagine that his time with the school is nearing an end.
The baseball teams from Woodbridge High School and Rutgers University were in similar dugouts Apr. 1 at the start of high school baseball season in New Jersey.
About the time Woodbridge ace Harry Rutkowski finished his one-hit gem, leading the Barrons to a 9-0 victory over South Amboy High School, Rutgers senior Howie Brey took the mound at Bainton Field to face off against Indiana University.
Brey likely had no idea about the five scoreless innings future Scarlet Knight Rutkowski threw — nor did he know that the high school junior struck out 12 of the 16 batters he faced.
It was a mere coincidence that Brey (2-3), a 2012 Middletown High School South graduate, chose the same day to pitch a gem of his own. The senior gave up only one run en route to Rutgers’ 10th win of the season. He not only threw his first complete game of the season — fanning eight along the way — but it was the first time he lasted a full outing since May last season.
Rutkowski, on the other hand, hurled eight complete games last year as a sophomore for Woodbridge, so it was more rare for him that he didn’t stay in and toss the entire game for the Barrons this time around.
Rutkowski is also one of Woodbridge’s most frequent baserunners when the opposing pitcher is on the mound.
In the opener, when he wasn’t busy sending South Amboy players right back to the bench after strike three, Rutkowski was hurting them with the bat. By the end of the day, the junior outhit the Governors, 2-1. Rutkowski went 2-for-4, while South Amboy as a team was 1-for-20. Rutkowski also knocked in four runs, proving to the visiting team it was in for a long day.
Brey, on the other hand, was able to rely on his teammates to send in all seven runs during Rutgers’ first Big Ten win of the season.
One day after Rutkowski carried the Barrons to a win, Marlboro High School went into Woodbridge and made Gerry Pena wish he didn’t make the first start of his senior season that day. He gave up six hits and walked eight before leaving after five innings, trailing, 9-0.
Nick Bradshaw, who had a pair of hits in the season opener, added another against Marlboro, while Zach Joe got two hits. It wasn’t enough for Woodbridge to avoid the 10-0 loss in its home opener.
The day after Brey got the win for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights lost the backend of a doubleheader with Indiana, 9-2.
So much of the season is still ahead of them, though. Woodbridge had a home-and-home series with local rival John F. Kennedy Memorial High School Apr. 4 and 5. Next, the team from Plainfield High School will travel to Woodbridge for an 11 a.m. meeting with the Barrons Apr. 9.
Rutgers next plays Fordham University Apr. 6 at 3:30 p.m. at Rutgers.
The one thing opponents of Woodbridge and Rutgers opponents have in common right now is that they’re hoping that the teams’ top, local pitchers — Rutkowski and Brey — are pushed back a day.