By David Willis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Standing on the mound, an out away from his second no-hitter in 55 days, former Pentucket star Ryan Kuchar could have been overcome by nerves as he closed in on such a rare feat.
But after everything he accomplished, all of the doubters he silenced and all of the tremendous moments from his career as a three-sport star and three-sport captain for the Sachems, it takes more than making history to shake Kuchar.
“I love it,” said the Newburyport Legion ace. “I love the competition. I have loved it since I was 5 years old. No matter what sport it is, I love to compete and win and I truly hate to lose. Nothing is worse.
“I know I’m not the tallest or the fastest and I don’t jump the highest. But I am going to compete and fight every day.”
Kuchar could have been content as the starting quarterback on the Pentucket football team. He could have been happy being the ace pitcher for the baseball team or go-to small forward for the basketball team.
But where would the fun in that be for the Union College-bound athlete?
“Ryan is just a very special kid,” said Sachems baseball coach Tom L’Italien. “He is just a tremendous competitor, and when your greatest competitor is also your best player and best leader, great things will come. Ryan is just something else.”
Kuchar utilized that fire — and more than a little talent — to become a three-year starting quarterback for Pentucket, leading them to the Division 4 North finals last fall, in addition to being the leading scorer for the Sachems basketball team and being named Daily News Player of the Year in baseball. He also served as captain for all three sports.
“Ryan has just been awesome for us as an athlete and as a kid,” said Pentucket head football coach Steve Hayden. “He was tremendous for us in football, whether it was quarterback, defensive back or punter, and has just brought so much leadership.”
Kuchar set the goal not to just compete but lead all three teams during his freshman season.
“I looked up to Mike Doud so much for being a three-sport captain,” Kuchar said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I can’t even explain how much of an honor it was to be named captain in all three sports.”
As a sophomore, Kuchar took on the considerable task of replacing Doud at quarterback for the Sachems.
“It was definitely overwhelming at times,” he said. “I put a lot of hard work and dedication into it. I couldn’t wait to be out there playing with and against the best, and it paid off.”
In three seasons under center for the Sachems, Kuchar compiled a 20-12 record, including last season when he passed for 647 yards and six touchdowns on the way to leading Pentucket to its first Cape Ann League title since the 2003 season.
He also played a key role as a defensive back, and made possibly the play of his athletic career when he boomed a tremendous punt to bury Watertown at its 8-yard-line and all but lock down the Division 4 North semifinals.
“Ryan just never missed a beat,” Hayden said. “People forget how important his punting was to us. He loved to be out there and play the game. He was so dependable.”
In the winter, the starting swing-man averaged an impressive 9.4 points for the Sachems, including a 22-point night against North Reading and a 12-point day to beat Newburyport, which was coached by L’Italien.
“I actually coached against him a few times,” L’Italien said. “I have coached against a number of my athletes and there are a few that are really special and different. I would send him a text after a game and say, ‘I can’t wait until we are on the same side again.’”
Kuchar was never more dominant than when he was on the mound for L’Italien in baseball. As a junior, he emerged as a true ace, going 5-0 with 39 strikeouts and a 1.19 ERA in 29.1 innings.
He was even better this spring, going 6-5 with a 1.27 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 66 innings. He also hit .306 with 13 RBIs as the Sachems’ starting first baseman.
But his crowning achievement was his no-hitter against Rockport, an accomplishment he matched by no-hitting North Andover for the Newburyport Legion team on June 26.
“The feeling of a no-hitter is just unreal,” he said. “Once that last pitch is thrown, no matter how the out is made, there is no better feeling. It’s crazy to think about.”
With his football and basketball careers now over, Kuchar will focus on baseball at Union College. But don’t expect the competitive fire to die down.
“I can’t wait to pitch in college,” he said. “Whether it’s pitching, basketball or playing quarterback, it’s an amazing feeling to have the ball in your hands and the eyes on you at the end of the game.”