Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, July 08, 2012

Ruppenthal pitches FTB to victory

Matthew Stokes        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. – FTB Mizuno’s (2-0) Matt Ruppenthal (2014, Brother Rice H.S., Mich.) threw six and two-thirds of three-hit ball to defeat the Texas Blackhawks 17u (2-2) 2-0 in a Sunday afternoon matchup in 2012 WWBA 17u National Championship pool play.

After walking one batter and allowing a single to another with two outs in the seventh, the right-hander’s outing ended. He struck out nine with two walks total. According to one Perfect Game scout, his fastball ranged between 85-88 mph, topping out at 89.

Though he just finished his sophomore season at Brother Rice last month, Ruppenthal is no stranger to Perfect Game events and making a name for himself.

Following his freshman year, Ruppenthal’s fastball was clocked at 91 mph while pitching for the Midland Braves at the 2011 16u Perfect Game BCS Finals in July 2011. He also threw a 74 mph curveball with an 80 mph circle changeup in that tournament.

Ruppenthal said his summer 2011 performance caught the attention of a Florida Travel Baseball coach.

I was playing an USSSA tournament last summer and their founder, George Gonzalez, saw me and asked me if I would play in the fall with them at Jupiter, Fla.,” the six-foot-four, 225-pound pitcher said. “So I did and I came back for this summer.”

During this season, Ruppenthal said he lives with Karl Ellison (2013, Barron Collier H.S., Fla.), who caught for FTB Mizuno on Sunday.

We’ve grown pretty tight over the last year, living together in Naples, Fla.,” Ruppenthal said.

Between last July and the current summer season, Ruppenthal has seen his national profile rise, earning him the number 38 ranking in Perfect Game’s last national rankings for the class of 2014 prospects. He even announced his verbal commitment to play ball at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where Ellison is also committed to play.

He gave Perfect Game credit for allowing him to be exposed to college coaches like those on Vanderbilt’s staff.

They’re definitely worth it,” said Ruppenthal of Perfect Game events. “The way I look at it, I wouldn’t have had any offers or be going to Vandy if it wasn’t for Perfect Game because that’s when everyone saw me.”

When asked about his experience with the Florida Travel Baseball organization thus far, Ruppenthal did not hold back at all.

This organization’s awesome,” Ruppenthal said. “It’s a lot of fun. They just kind of let you do your thing.”

FTB Mizuno head coach Alan Kunkel, in his third year in that role, gave the rising junior pitcher high marks for his pitching performance on the mound.

Phenomenal job,” said Kunkel of Ruppenthal following the game. “Strike one was imperative for him today. He got ahead early, was able to use his offspeed stuff and kept his pitch count down with quality defense behind him. We really couldn’t ask for more from a young man.

He’s a workhorse, loves to compete and work fast and gave us an opportunity to win the game today.”

Ruppenthal said he thought he pitched well against the Blackhawks.

I threw quite a few strikes and was able to get all three of my pitches over the plate,” said Ruppenthal after the game. “And my fielders backed me up very well.”

Kunkel said Gonzalez and Jered Goodwin founded the organization around four-five years ago.

They continue to build a reputation, keeping the organization fairly small with quality players,” Kunkel said. “Our job is to get these players committed. We really do want to showcase and give them an opportunity to play at the next level. Wiining has just been a byproduct of the success that we’ve had.”

The communication between Florida Travel Baseball and Perfect Game has allowed the relationship between them to prosper, Kunkel explained.

We don’t miss a Perfect Game event,” Kunkel said. “The Ford family has been really good to us, and we have tried to reciprocate. Right now it’s been a great marriage, and we’re excited to continue on with that.”

Kunkel added that this specific summer team has been a tight-knit squad.

You know the thing that is really special about this group is the chemistry,” Kunkel said. “They just fight for one another. For a travel ball team to come together and battle and compete and have no egos…is special.”

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