Maturing lefty Ruiz steers Locked in Baseball in Scout League

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 19, 2023

Locked In Baseball’s Tommy Blackwell stomps on home plate to score a run as the Expos defeat the 9ers, 7-3, Wednesday night in Garden State Fall Scout League action.

By Mike Olshin

Patrick Ruiz deserves a lot of credit.

The Morristown High sophomore could have rested on his laurels. He had, by all accounts, a fine freshman season for the Colonials. Pitching 20 varsity innings with a 3.50 ERA, throwing against big boys like West Morris and Chatham with beyond-his-years maturity, those things could lead to a false sense of security.

While Patrick Ruiz does deserve a lot of credit for his early success, he wants more of the latter. He saw the strikeout numbers – five in 20 innings – and knows where he needs improvement.

“I need to gain weight,” Ruiz said matter-of-factly, after pitching four strong innings as the Locked In Expos impressed in a 7-3 win over 9ers Baseball Maroon in the team’s Garden State Fall Scout League finale Wednesday night at Diamond Nation.

The slender-but-growing lefty allowed just one run in four innings, striking out six with a sneaky fastball and solid secondary pitches. “I’m also here working on my arm path and my lower half, getting stronger.”

These are major goals as Ruiz will be counted on to handle important innings this spring in the NJAC National, which includes not only West Morris, but also the still-loaded 2023 Group 3 state champ Morris Knolls, and dare we forget Mendham, which is always solid and actually captured the division before Knolls blew up late.

So Ruiz’s growth will be a big story line over the winter.

He was never seriously threatened in this one, as the Expos captured their first win of the Scout League schedule. Ruiz allowed just three hits, giving his teammates plenty of time to build a 7-1 lead and coast to victory.

9ers pitcher Nick Kowalewski delivers in the first inning of Wednesday’s Garden State Scout League.

A couple of Morristown High teammates played big roles in the victory, as Locked In got to 9ers starter Nick Kowalewski in the third inning, after the big Point Pleasant Boro lefty dominated the first two frames with four strikeouts.

The 6-foot-5 Kowalewski made it five Ks in eight batters to start the bottom of the third – but Morristown’s Dominic Correale really got the Expos – ahem – locked in with a booming RBI triple to the fence in right. That seemed to open the floodgates as the hosts scored three times in the bottom of the third, stealing six bases in the inning and taking advantage of some shaky 9ers defense.

Locked In added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up 7-1. 

The onslaught included an RBI single by another key Morristown High returner, senior Sean Newman, who led the home team Wednesday with two hits, two steals, and two RBIs. A senior who batted .333 in 60-plus at bats last spring, Newman is a high academic student getting attention from D-3 schools in the area. He knows the importance of building something special for the spring.

“We’re trying to use this to prepare and be better for Morristown in the spring,” Newman said. “The schedule is tough, so we have to be ready.”

Zach Hampton led the way offensively for the 9ers as he smoked a pair of hits, including a laser through the middle, leading to his team’s first run in the fourth, and then a rope down the line into the corner in the sixth.

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