It’s easy to forget Truman Richter is just a sophomore in high school. The stuff he brings to the mound, the big game performances and a calm and coolness that belies his youth all contribute to the memory loss.
Richter pitched just 23.2 high school innings as a freshman for Voorhees High School last spring, but half of those innings came against two talented opponents and shined a bright light on the lefthander’s potential.
The Glen Gardner resident then performed well at a couple key showcases during an outstanding summer for the Diamond Jacks Super 15U team and suddenly he had grabbed the attention of Division 1 baseball programs up and down the east coast.
“Coach Ditro (Diamond Nation’s recruiting coordinator Steve DiTrolio) got me a spot in the PBR Futures Games in early August,” said Richter. “We were in LakePoint, Georgia. After I pitched, PBR’s Shooter Hunt gave me the Virginia Tech pitching coach’s cell number. I called him and he invited me to a camp. Before you knew it, I found my dream school.”
Virginia Tech assistant coach Ryan Fecteau liked what he saw of Richter in the Futures Games and confirmed his original view while watching the 15 year-old pitch at a Virginia Tech camp. “The camp was basically a showcase,” said Richter. “I threw well. I faced five batters in two innings.”
It was a bit of a whirlwind experience for Richter, who grew up following and rooting for Virginia Tech football and basketball.
“It was pretty quick,” he said. “My dad and I went on a tour of the baseball facilities and the campus. The following night we spoke to (head) coach (John) Szefc by phone and they offered me. Three days later, on Sept. 3, I made it official and committed.”
Richter, still with so much ahead of him at Voorhees High School and with the Diamond Jacks, had to pinch himself.
“It was in the back of my mind that I could commit this early,” said Richter. “It was not my main goal that I would commit to the first school that offered me. But I couldn’t say no to Virginia Tech. The whole campus is beautiful. I’ve always been a fan of Virginia Tech and it’s always been one of my dream schools. I also liked that it was not a big city school. It’s surrounded by mountains.”
Though Richter hadn’t had other offers yet, they were coming, inevitably. He had already spoken to such schools as Stetson, Seton Hall, Boston College and St. Johns. Oh, and he was still 15.
What Virginia Tech liked about Richter is what most concerned Voorhees’ opponents and the summer travel community the past six months or so. He sports a live fastball that sits at 83-85 and tops out at about 86-87. He adds a changeup, curveball and slider to the mix. “My fastball is my best pitch,” he said. “It has natural movement and tails away from lefty hitters.”
Delaware Valley Regional and Hunterdon Central each received a heavy dose of Richter’s heaters at mid-season and struggled mightily just to get baserunners.
Richter shut out heated Skyland Conference division rival Delaware Valley, 1-0, on one hit over 6.1 innings, strikeout 10 and walking four. He left the game due to the NJSIAA’s 110-pitch limit. A freshman at the time, Richter stepped up his game another notch in his next start. He stifled defending NJSIAA Group 4 champion Hunterdon Central in, albeit, a 2-1 loss. Richter permitted two runs, one of which was earned, on three hits over 5.1 innings. He struck out 10 and walked four.
“I knew going into those games I had to be my best to have a chance,” Richter said. “I tried to show up. We did beat Del Val but we didn’t beat Central. We’ll get them this year.” Richter concluded his freshman season at Voorhees at 3-2 with an impressive 2.70 ERA. He struck out 36 and walked 18. He also chipped in with a .318 batting average in his first 44 high school at bats.
Richter’s fastball was so effective in those two big mid-season performances he seldom had to go to his secondary pitches, the curveball and changeup. That could change this spring after a summer in which he tried to become a more complete and a more consistent pitcher.
“I just started throwing the slider,” he said. “It’s looking really good. It’s getting better and better every bullpen. It’s got more of a late, tight break to it. I think it will be my best pitch eventually.”
Richter worked hard this summer and fall on his mechanics, receiving plenty of tutoring from Diamond Nation’s outstanding pitching coach Brian DelRosso.
“We had a great summer and won a lot of games,” he said. “I pitched a lot and I think I improved toward the end. I worked on my windup and tried to be more consistent in my delivery.” While walks have not been a major issue, there were a few too many for his liking during the high school season. “I was over-anxious at times. If I went back and looked at those pitches, most were probably high. I think I figured it out this summer. I didn’t walk many.”
Richter said DelRosso has helped him with his grip in the bullpen. “DelRo is very knowledgeable,” he said. “I really like working with him. I need my mechanics to be consistent. That’s what I’m working on most.”
DelRosso, a Phillipsburg High School grad, pitched professional in Independent League ball in 2013. He’s worked with Richter since the Super 16U pitcher was on the Super 14U team.
“Truman has been on of our best guys on the mound for awhile,” said DelRosso. “He played-up in a few tournaments as a younger player and was still able to get his fastball by guys and keep them off balance with his off-speed pitches. He consistently makes competitive pitches.”
Richter and fellow Diamond Jack Drew Conover, a 6-5 senior righthander bound for Seton Hall University, will front a deep and imposing Voorhees pitching staff in 2020, a major reason the team has big dreams in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament and the NJSIAA tournament. HIs high school coach cannot wait.
“Truman’s work ethic is uncompromising,” says Voorhees coach Cory Kent, “and his humility completes the package. He works hard and wants to win, period. He shows up every day and supports his teammates, which shows a growing level of maturity and leadership.”
While Richter has impressive tools and shows plenty of promise, he becomes even more attractive as a ballplayer when one discovers he is acutely aware and focused on the job at hand.
“Truman has a repeatable arm slot,” says DelRosso, “a clean delivery and is very projectable at the next level. Equally important he is an intelligent kid. He definitely has a bright future ahead of him with such a good head on his shoulders and a great support system.”
Richter and his Voorhees teammates were 13-8 in 2019 and boasted a 9-3 conference record. But the Vikings fell short of their goals in both the county and state tournaments.
“We are going to try to win states this year,” says Richter. “I think we can do it. We have a great staff with four or five lockdown pitchers, all throwing over 80. That’s amazing for a small school.”
Stay tuned this spring as the Truman Show is set to appear on a field near you.
NOTES: Three players from New Jersey — sophomore Chris Gerard from Bergen Catholic and freshmen Cade Hunter of Lenape High School and Stephen Restuccio of Hammonton — are on the Virginia Tech roster. … Virginia Tech went a deceiving 26-27 in 2019 while posting a 9-21 record in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference.