The high school baseball season didn’t exactly end the way Michael Kuzirian wanted it to finish. The standout Memorial High School pitcher/infielder watched his team lose in embarrassing fashion to Randolph in the Group IV state playoffs and two days later, drop another heartbreaker to St. Peter’s Prep in the HCIAA Coviello championship game.
What was such a storied and promising run came to a crashing halt in a span of 72 hours.
“We all had bad games and I guess that happens in baseball sometimes,” Kuzirian said. “We were not at the top of our games. It really bothered me a lot.”
Luckily, Kuzirian, the 2008 Hudson Reporter Baseball Player of the Year, still had a chance to play high school baseball. He was selected to play in the 32nd Annual New Jersey Scholastic Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Star Classic at Mercer County Park in West Windsor.
Kuzirian was one of five Hudson County players selected among the state’s best to play in the classic, playing for the Northeast All-Stars, which was comprised of players from Hudson, Bergen, Passaic and Sussex Counties.
“I was really honored to be there,” Kuzirian said. “There were some really big-time schools there with big-time players. Coming from Hudson County, with so few players there, I felt it was an honor and privilege to be there. I really enjoyed it.”
Kuzirian said that he was suffering from a tired arm at the end of the regular season, so he did not pick up a baseball for two full weeks prior to the All-Star Classic.
“I was really excited about getting a chance to pitch there,” said Kuzirian, who will play both baseball and soccer at Rutgers-Newark in the fall. “I wanted to go there and show people what I could do. I didn’t want anyone to judge me on the way the season ended.”
Kuzirian pitched one scoreless inning at the All-Star Classic, surrendering just one hit, one walk and striking out one.
“I felt good about it and felt good about the way I pitched,” Kuzirian said. “After two weeks of rest, it was good to come back and hit my spots. My mechanics were back. I had a lot of speed on my fastball. I really felt good. I was facing the top seniors in the state. I know college will definitely be different, but I think this was a good start.”
The other local participants felt the same way.
Earlier in the spring, when County Prep outfielder Evan Pimentel was bashing the ball at a ridiculous rate, he really didn’t have a clue about where he was going to college. But an .852 batting average after 11 games certainly opens some eyes and Pimentel received a financial aid package to attend Rutgers University and play baseball there.
“I was determined to prove that my numbers [batting average] were valid,” Pimentel said. “I wanted to show that I could play with anyone, not just in Hudson County, but throughout the whole state. When you get a chance to play with great players, your level of play intensifies.”
So Pimentel was excited to get a chance to play in the All-Star Classic, where his future head coach, Fred Hill, Sr., was in attendance.
“It’s going to be so cool to play for Coach Hill,” Pimentel said. “I wanted to make a positive impression.”
But wearing a County Prep jersey didn’t exactly draw excitement from Pimentel’s Northeast All-Star teammates.
“Some of them didn’t even know where I was from,” Pimentel said. “Some never heard of the school.”
Which is surprising, considering that County Prep did win the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state title this spring.
By the time the game was over, they all knew who Pimentel was, because he laced a 400-foot bomb to straight away centerfield that went for a triple. He also made a diving catch in left field that saved two runs.
“It was awesome to be there and to do well,” Pimentel said. “It’s something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I definitely had a sense of pride representing my school and Hudson County that well. I think I gained a lot of respect.”
Pimentel didn’t keep up the gaudy batting average, but finished with an impressive .548 average with three homers and 41 RBI. He’s now on his way to becoming a Division I baseball player.
Hoboken’s Zack Markle was also at the game. He delivered a clutch two-run double that spearheaded the Northeast’s 9-5 victory.
“It was definitely good to be there and represent the county and Hoboken well,” said Markle, who played first base in the game. “I got to show myself and what I can do. It was pretty cool to get that big hit and I hit it well. I got to play on the same team with some Division I players and some guys who were drafted. I think playing in the game will help me get ready for my college career.”
Markle will continue his baseball career at Richard Stockton College in the fall.
All in all, it was a fine day for the Hudson County All-Stars who certainly made their mark and made their presence felt.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.