Anyone familiar with Poland baseball will surely recognize the name Matt Pitzulo.
A 2009 graduate of the school, Matt was a mainstay on the Bulldog baseball team. After finishing at Poland, Pitzulo received a full scholarship to continue his career at Bowling Green State University. With lofty expectations, Pitzulo seemed to be a perfect fit for the Falcons. He didn't disappoint either. Pitzulo popped off the charts as a rookie hitting .357 with 17 extra base hits. It seemed as if this new Falcon would forever etch his name in the record books. Unfortunately, injury set in and derailed those dreams.
"I was injured after my freshman year and had to have Tommy John surgery," explained Matt in a recent phone conversation. "I started out as a shortstop/second baseman, but had to switch to (designated hitter) because I struggled throwing. I had a lot of success my freshman year, but I was never the same after that. It was tough to go through."
Photo special to the Town Crier
It may have been tough for the local product, but that didn't deflate his enthusiasm for the game. Pitzulo persevered after his setback to have three more successful seasons. His career slugging percentage was .357 with 80 runs scored. He ended just 23 at-bats shy of having the most at-bats in Bowling Green history. Pitzulo also placed just outside the top 10 of most games played in school history.
The icing on Pitzulo's career cake came on May 18. With a sub .500 record it seemed impossible for the Falcons to make the regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The only way Bowling Green would become eligible was to beat favored Buffalo. Not only did Bowling Green bounce Buffalo, but also it was Pitzulo who played a pivotal role in the victory. Matt knocked in the game-tying run in the final inning then came around to score the winning tally that moved the Falcons forward. It was definitely a story of a good thing happening to good person. Pitzulo, however, believed that perhaps a higher force was in action that day.
"The baseball gods were looking after me," he said chuckling. "If we would have lost to Buffalo we wouldn't have made (the tournament). It definitely gave me a good feeling."
That feeling also rubbed off on Pitzulo's roommate, Nick Bruns, who tossed a no-hitter in the MAC championship game. It showed that those gods Matt mentioned worked for the entire B.G. team.
"Nick did a phenomenal job," said Pitzulo proudly. "He was only expected to go maybe five innings, but he went past that. All the momentum (from the MAC championship) carried us into the tournament."
Despite his Tommy John tribulations, Pitzulo carried the Falcons a lot since 2010. At the recently completed Bowling Green awards ceremony, a script was presented that read in part: "Matt Pitzulo was a three-time letter who made an immediate impact from the moment he stepped on campus. Pitzulo was an integral part of the 2010 MAC championship team earning All-MAC honors for his accomplishments during his freshman campaign. He was also a 2012 captain."
Bowling Green made it all the way to the Louisville Regional of the NCAA's before being upended by World Series contender Louisville. That disappointment paled in comparison to the distress that another Tommy John surgery has inflicted on Pitzulo. Just like after the first operation, Pitzulo is recovering without problem and has started to build his life after playing baseball.
"I'm doing an internship for Slammers Baseball Academy in Chicago," Pitzulo reported. "I'll need to go back to Bowling Green and graduate in December."
Matt will finish school with a degree in sports management with a minor in business. He hopes to one day be a head coach on the college baseball level.
After all that he has overcome the past four years and the success he still sustained, there is no reason to believe that Matt Pitzulo won't be as triumphant instructing future stars as he was being one himself.