Mike Olivo figures he’s played baseball since he was 3 years old.
But he’s known since before his sophomore year at Ridge High School that he’d play his last baseball game as a Red Devils’ senior. Football would be his long-term pursuit, deciding last fall to play at Trinity College in Hartford.
So when Ridge was beaten by Woodbridge June 7 in the North 2 Group 4 semifinals, the centerfielder/lefty pitcher bid farewell to the game he first played and loved. He certainly didn’t leave behind any baseball regrets.
He’s the Courier News Baseball Player of the Year.
“Obviously this year we wanted to win a state championship, but looking back I thought I had a great career with all teammates, my friends that I played with through all these years, we definitely accomplished a lot,” said Olivo, who was a big contributor last year when Ridge won a sectional championship. “I definitely can leave Ridge baseball with my head held high knowing I left it all on the field.”
Olivo’s significant contributions continued this season as Ridge went 24-4, winning its seventh Somerset County Tournament title. Ridge also pushed Hunterdon Central to the end of the season before Central won the Skyland Conference Delaware Division title.
Olivo led the team with a .437 batting average and was 5-1 on the mound with three saves. He was also vital with his legs. His tagging up to go to third base on a fly out to right in the fourth inning of a scoreless game was a spark in the Red Devils’ 6-0 county final win over Rutgers Prep.
Ridge was being no-hit by Prep freshman lefty Zach Fronio when the lefty swinging Olivo doubled down the right field line. Right fielder James Jackman then caught Matt Aber’s medium fly ball and Olivo took off for third.
“Just watching in warmups, I kind of knew with my speed that unless it was really shallow I had confidence in myself to make it, tagging up there, I never hesitated there to take the extra bag,” Olivo said.
DH Julian Kielb hit a sharp grounder to third that was fielded cleanly but the throw was bounced to first allowing Olivo to break the scoreless game. Olivo will always remember his team for its deep batting order and the ability to make contact.
When asked how much Olivo did during the season coach Tom Blackwell simply said “everything.”
“When we needed a shutout on the mound, a ball run down in the gap, a big hit, stolen base, a a big relief appearance to shut down momentum or a run scored – he did it every time,” Blackwell said. “Not to mention his contagious leadership and confidence.”
Olivo was a first-team Courier News All-Area Football player last fall for his play as Ridge’s quarterback. But he said he never thought once of not playing baseball in the spring.
“That was never part of my mindset, I still love baseball and I love playing it,” Olivo said.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Baseball: Ridge's Mike Olivo is the Courier News Player of the Year