By Mac Cerullo
---- — WEST NEWBURY — One of the best all-around athletes at Pentucket over the past few years, senior pitcher Ryan Kuchar wrapped up his high school career with his best season yet, leading the Sachems to a 15-9 overall record and three wins in the state tournament.
Even on a team loaded with talent, Kuchar was unquestionably the best player on the field every time he took the mound or stepped into the batter’s box, a sentiment echoed by opposing coaches from across the region. With that being the case, The Daily News is proud to honor Kuchar as its 2014 Baseball Player of the Year.
Though Kuchar was only 4-5 on the season — largely a product of poor run support early in the year — his other statistics indicate his dominance on the mound. Kuchar had an ERA of 1.23, 76 strikeouts and just eight walks in 51 innings of work during the regular season.
At the plate, Kuchar hit .306 while maintaining an on-base percentage of .394. He also led the Sachems with 14 runs scored, and he complemented that with 10 RBIs and five doubles. Perhaps most impressively, Kuchar struck out only three times in 62 at bats the whole season.
Kuchar’s best performance of the season came on May 1, when he threw a no-hitter to lead Pentucket to a dominating 7-0 win over Rockport. In that game, Kuchar struck out 14 Vikings while allowing no hits and no walks, and the only batters to reach base did so as a result of errors.
“It was awesome. It’s every pitcher’s dream and I couldn’t have done it without my infield because they saved me that game,” Kuchar said, referring primarily to second baseman Kiernan Haley’s play at second to keep the no-hitter alive during the 7th inning. “I’m happy I did it.”
That win was the fifth in a string of eight straight victories for Pentucket, which took the Sachems from a 1-4 early season hole to a 9-4 mark, all but assuring the Sachems of a postseason berth. Once there, Kuchar was an instrumental piece in all three of Pentucket’s wins.
During Pentucket’s 3-2 extra innings win over Stoneham in the preliminary round, Kuchar pitched all eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits while holding the Spartans without a hit over the game’s last five innings.
In Pentucket’s next game against Charlestown, Kuchar helped lead the Sachems at the plate in their 9-0 win first-round win. Kuchar reached base five times, going 2-2 with three RBIs along with two walks and a hit by pitch.
Finally, in Pentucket’s North quarterfinal matchup against Lynnfield, Kuchar took the mound on three days’ rest and threw a gem, pitching a complete game while allowing just one run on three hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
“What happens with Ryan is when he takes the ball, we know we have a chance to beat anybody,” said Pentucket coach Tom L’Italien. “When he took the ball, he worked fast, threw strikes, fielded his position well. I think it’s just that quiet confidence he carried himself with.”
Though Pentucket’s season came to an abrupt end when the Sachems were no-hit by Hamilton-Wenham in the North Semifinals, Kuchar said this season was one of the most fun he’s had in his whole career; and even though it didn’t end the way anyone would have liked, he’s going to look back fondly on the time he spent with his fellow “weirdos.”
“It was one of the best team’s I ever played on,” Kuchar said. “I love every single one of those kids. We started off 1-4 and we just rallied. We never got down and got closer throughout the season and had a good run.”
Besides his accomplishments in baseball, Kuchar was also renowned for his prowess on the football field as Pentucket’s starting quarterback and on the basketball court as an All-Star forward. Kuchar was a team captain in all three sports, and next year he will take his talents to upstate New York when he joins the Union College baseball team.
While the Sachems will have a huge void on their roster next year, L’Italien said Kuchar will leave behind a lasting legacy just by virtue of his decision to stay at Pentucket. He noted that Kuchar could have gone to a private school, but instead decided to stay and was wildly successful as a result. Going forward, maybe other athletes coming up through the ranks may look at Kuchar’s example and decide to stay as well.
“He was able to be a captain at all three sports and excel at his natural position, and that wouldn’t have happened if he went to a private school,” L’Italien said. “We were thrilled when he decided to stay, and I think that’s a lesson for all kids coming up in the area.”
Kuchar said he hopes that will be his legacy, and now that his high school career is over, he’s going to miss all the time he spent representing the school in the Cape Ann League.
“I love Pentucket, it was my home for four years,” Kuchar said. “I don’t care if it was D3, I love the Cape Ann League, I loved the competition and I loved playing for Pentucket.”