He’s a bulldog on the mound, the ultimate stopper with unbelievable stats.
No question, fans and opponents know all about the pitching prowess of North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky. The junior right-hander, though, sees himself as more than just a pitcher.
“Growing up, you don’t really know what position you’re going to play,” he said, “and I think I had the mentality of when the coach asks you what position you play, I say I play baseball. So whatever my team needed me to do, that’s what I was there for.
“I mean I take a lot of pride in how I pitch. I know that’s what people know me for, but I don’t want to let my hitting go unnoticed.”
Saying you “play baseball” is a mindset that signals you’re a complete player. You’re willing to do the little things and prepare the right way and, indeed, do whatever your team needs.
Konstantinovsky, who also played first base, did all that and then some.
He is the 2022 Home News Tribune Greater Middlesex Conference Baseball Player of the Year for his outstanding season. In 67 innings, Konstantinovsky went 7-0 with 119 strikeouts and two walks with a .71 ERA and a .61 WHIP. He reached double-digit strikeouts in eight of his 10 starts.
Offensively, Konstantinovsky hit .381 (32-of-84) with four home runs, 27 RBI, seven doubles, 19 runs scored and a .505 OBP. His hitting highlights included a walk-off single in the Raiders' 1-0 win in 12 innings in the GMCT semifinal against East Brunswick.
Repeat: 119 strikeouts and two walks.
Konstantinovsky can’t help but look at the stats now and then.
“I think every baseball player does,” he said, “but at the end of the day it’s not all about the stats. Just reflecting on the season and in the moments itself, you know we had a great couple of games to look back on and great moments within our team.”
The Raiders (22-10) won the GMC Tournament championship for the first time in program history with several exciting victories. Konstantinovsky pointed to a few of his top memories, which included beating Colonia 7-0 in the GMCT first-round after the teams split in the regular season. He threw six shutout innings with 16 strikeouts for the win.
In the Central Group 4 opener, North Brunswick edged rival South Brunswick 5-4. Konstantinovsky had the game-tying RBI to set-up Omar Carreras’ game-winning single.
Then, of course, there was the GMCT final in which Konstantinovsky twirled a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in North Brunswick's 4-2 win over St. Joseph.
“It was a great year,” said Konstantinovsky, who has committed to Rutgers. “Just a great group of guys and I felt beginning of the year we had something to prove. You know, North Brunswick not really known for their baseball. We wanted to put our name on the map. So I felt like our team had a little chip on our shoulders from last year. Losing in the (GMCT) semifinals (in 2021) hurt a little bit and the guys who went through that wanted it more.
"So I thought that was in the back of our minds and we just wanted to have fun and play baseball. With that, came winning and I think we did a great job just staying together as a team. ... It’s awesome to be a part of history especially at a great town and school like North Brunswick.”
Just his presence on the mound gave a boost to his teammates.
“He’s the constant,” North Brunswick coach Mark Blevins said. “He was the exact thing that you need in baseball. You need that stopper. Whether it’s going good or it’s going bad, you know you’re going to get a great outing from him. All the kids respond to it. He’s just such a great role model. He works hard. He’s smart. He understands the game. He prepares well, so on top of him being dominant he’s also a great leader.”
As a sophomore, Konstantinovsky had a 1.69 ERA in 54 innings with 70 strikeouts and 10 walks. He continued to improve in the offseason and worked out at the Baseball Warehouse.
Blevins said the biggest difference this season was Konstantinovsky’s improved breaking ball and he “had it every single start that he made and he was able to keep hitters off-balanced even more.”
“He’s been a super mature player for his age even coming up as a young kid, but the bottom line is his preparation and his diligence to stay consistent in his workouts in the offseason and in the preseason and even during the season," Blevins said.
Konstantinovsky’s older brother Victor was a catcher at North Brunswick and he followed his footsteps onto the diamond.
Interestingly, Konstantinovsky said that when he played in middle school “I used to be the kid who’d walk four guys a game."
So, he focused on throwing strikes in his training and acquired a mentality of attacking the hitters. It's paid off. This spring, Konstantinovsky issued a walk in his first start and didn't have a free pass until his second to last start.
Konstantinovsky, who throws in the high 80s and low 90s, noted he added a cutter later in the season. He refers to pitching as his craft and enjoys fine-tuning the small details. It all added up to a memorable season.
“Every year there’s something else to work on,” he said. “Never settling for anything and just getting better.”
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Zack Konstantinovsky is the HNT baseball Player of the Year