Jerad Eickhoff is a Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher who just knows how to pitch. The 28-year old doesn’t have amazing stuff. He just understands how to get guys out.
Eickhoff is 2-1 with a 1.50 earned run average in 2019.
Nick Pivetta is a Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher with natural throwing ability. The 26-year old has absolutely electric stuff. He just doesn’t know how to get guys out.
Pivetta has a 5.51 career ERA in 315.1 Major League Baseball innings. He got demoted to the Phillies’ Triple-A team in the Lehigh Valley in April.
Baseball pitching, at all levels, is defined by this dichotomy. The pitchers and the throwers. Both types can make it far. But only the pitchers succeed on a consistent basis.
Spotswood High School’s Matt Vento has always been a Pitcher, not a thrower. Even in Little League, Vento was mixing pitches and inducing weak contact.
This ability earned the right-hander a spot on Spotswood’s varsity team as a freshman in 2016, despite his mid-70s fastball. Three years later though, Vento has developed his throwing ability.
His fastball now hits the mid-80s. His slurve, a slider-curveball-cutter hybrid, befuddles hitters.
As a senior, Vento is a Pitcher with electric stuff.
And that’s when, as a hurler, you’ve beaten the game. In 2019 so far, Vento is 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA. He also has a 39-11 strikeout-walk ratio in 33.2 innings.
On April 10 at Spotswood, Vento earned a complete game victory, 2-1, over one of the best teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference, Middlesex High School, a club with a 16-5 record in 2019.
“I’m just having a lot of fun,” Vento said. “Honestly it’s just become a comfort thing. It doesn’t feel like games. When I’m going out there, it feels like a kid’s game.”
“He’s tough, man,” said Spotswood coach Glenn Fredricks.
“He could already put varsity hitters away as a freshman and he has only evolved ever since,” the coach added.
Vento has pitched 30 frames or more as a sophomore, junior and senior, and his ERA has remained below 2.00 in all three years. He always had the foundation of knowing how to get guys out. But along the way, he amped up his heater, added the slurve and grew from 5-8 and 140 pounds to 6-3 and 180 pounds.
“It’s such a big difference from my freshman year to now,” Vento said. “I had to focus on every spot my freshman year. If I make a mistake now, I’m confident enough to come back the next pitch and still have it work out.”
“He has filled out tremendously,” Fredricks said. “And any time a kid plays four varsity years, it will help as a senior.”
Spotswood is only 8-11 this spring. But behind Vento and his senior classmate/friend, left-hander Evan Scarduffa, who is 2-2 with a 1.29 ERA in 38 innings, the Chargers are in position to qualify for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional tournament. At best, they will earn the No. 9 seed. At worst, they will be the 12th-seeded team in the field.
Fredricks’ club will be a prime upset and even Cinderella candidate. As the conventional wisdom goes, two great starters can carry a high school team far.
“We’ve shown we can play with the best team in the county in Middlesex,” Fredricks said. “And with that 1-2 punch, it gives us a real good shot to make a run in both tournaments, the GMC (Tournament) too.”
Those tournaments may mark the end of Vento’s baseball career, or they may not. The senior might try to play collegiate baseball for The College of New Jersey in 2020.
But it will depend on whether he can fit it in. The senior will major in “a demanding physics program,” he said.
“I’m not sure if there will be time for all of it,” Vento added. “It all comes down to time management and if I can juggle them.”