On April 24 at Freehold Township High School, Ryan Kurczeski had the worst warmup session of the baseball season.
The right-handed pitcher did everything he normally does before a start. He stretched and then tossed 20 sliders, 15 changeups and 10 fastballs. Then he fired five more offerings of each pitch.
Only the fastball “came out right,” Kurczeski said. The Freehold Township senior had no control over his off speed pitches.
As he walked to the mound for the top of the first inning, Kurczeski felt nervous.
“I knew this was going to be a tough day,” he said.
Then the lifelong baseball player threw the first no-hitter of his career.
“I got out there and I could have closed my eyes and threw,” he said. “It was weird.”
In the Patriots’ 2-0 victory over Long Branch High School on that afternoon, Kurczeski struck out eight, walked one and finished all seven innings in 82 pitches.
Despite his dominance though, Kurczeski actually forgot that he was throwing a no-hitter. One Long Branch hitter fouled off a bunch of pitches, and Kurczeski was sure he ended up getting a hit. But that was actually his only walk of the day.
“My teammates charged me after the final out and I realized it,” he said, laughing.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” declared Tim Kurczeski, Ryan’s father. “This is a young man that’s worked extremely hard.”
The younger Kurczeski never started for the Patriots until this spring. He was always stuck behind older hurlers.
But in 2018, Kurczeski carved out a varsity role as the Patriots’ top reliever, posting a 1.78 ERA in 27 innings.
“I was the low man and I had to earn my way in,” Kurczeski said. “But once the older guys left it was up to me to pick it up.”
The senior struggled in his first two starts this spring, leaving two games against undefeated Manalapan High School, on April 2 and 4, after just two innings.
Kurczeski succeeded last spring with a high-80s fastball and a mid-70s changeup, the ideal speed difference between those two pitches. But to become a quality starter, he needed a good third offering, an out pitch.
That’s why he started throwing his slider 20 times during his warmup routine. With reps, the pitch got better.
And on April 17 at Freehold Township, Kurczeski allowed no earned runs in five innings in an 11-1 victory over St. Rose High School. A week later, he threw the no-hitter.
On the year now, the Kean University commit is 3-1 with a 1.52 earned run average. He has also helped Freehold Township to a second half surge that has elevated the team to a 10-7 record. The Patriots are in position to qualify for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
Kurczeski and sophomore right-hander Zachary Gorman have formed a nice one-two punch on the mound. Gorman is 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA.
Moving forward this spring, there is only one way for Kurczeski to top his no-no.
“It would be to push the team deep in the postseason and even to a championship,” he said.
After this spring, the senior has a bright future ahead of him at Kean. The Union school offers a very strong Division 3 program.
“They have D1 facilities, which is unheard of,” Kurczeski said. “It will be unbelievable.”