LIVINGSTON, NJ — As spring sports begin at Livingston High School, the varsity baseball team’s star pitcher, Ryan Cardona, has been named the season’s first Athlete of the Week.
The senior threw 91 pitches in an extra-inning showdown against Millburn, a Top 10 team, on Saturday morning—walking one and striking out 12 before being taken out. Although the Lancers were defeated in the end, 1-0, and lost two key players to injuries, head coach Mickey Ennis expects that Cardona will embrace the challenge of picking up the pieces.
“I still think we’ll have a strong [pitching] staff, but in speaking to Ryan even since that performance, he wants to put the team on his shoulders and get on the mound as often as he can legally,” said Ennis. “He wants to pitch on few days’ rest to make up for the losses. Ryan Cardona wants nothing more than to win baseball games for Livingston High School…if it was up to Ryan Cardona, he would have gone out and thrown another 20 pitches to reach the legal number (110) on Saturday.”
Ennis has previously stated that the Lancers’ pitching staff would be their greatest strength this season, especially with Cardona starting on the mound. However, the team lost two staff pitchers in Tom Kelly, who broke his collarbone on Saturday, and Austin Chambers, who will fill in for injured catcher Rich DeMaio at the plate.
“When things start going wrong, like the two big injuries that we’ve had, it’s important that we have people like Ryan Cardona to lead the way and put pressure on himself to pick up whatever slack we have from losing those key players to our team,” said Ennis. “We know Ryan is talented, we know he is a tremendous athlete, but what people may not know is his burning desire to win.”
He added that it is the little things Cardona does like spending extra time in the weight room and paying extra attention to his teammates that make him worthy of the Athlete of the Week title.
“He’s a tremendous leader and I know his inspiration is rubbing off on other players on this team,” said Ennis. “I couldn’t be prouder or happier for a guy like him to win Athlete of the Week, he certainly deserves it.”
Cardona thanked his coaches, his teammates and “most of all God” for this recognition. Despite being on the losing end of the home opener on Saturday, Cardona said it was hard-fought game all around and that “through failure comes success.”
“We’ll learn from this,” he said. “It sounds cliché, but this season feels different. Our one goal is to bring a championship back to Livingston—either conference, GNT (Greater Newark Tournament) or state. As a team, we’re going to deliver.”
As far as his own performance, Cardona said, “Baseball is a funny game where even if you have great stuff as a pitcher, you can still lose the game. I felt great on the mound and I know I have much more in the tank.”
Cardona added that good things come with hard work, and that his goal is to win the conference and ultimately pursue a National Championship as he heads to Marist College to continue his athletic career in the fall.
“Personally, I play with a chip on my shoulder and bring confidence to the mound with every start,” said Cardona. “I’m an emotional guy and I get fired up on the mound. I like to have fun, but stay locked in. My personal goal is to be the best pitcher in the state, and if I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t be a competitor.”
After taking a break against Nutley on Thursday, where the Lancers took home their first victory of the season, Cardona returns to the mound on Saturday to face West Orange.