David Rodriguez loves doing it.
He hates talking about it.
Rodriguez is a junior pitcher on the Father Judge High School baseball team, and he’s been the best pitcher in the league for two years now.
That’s not an opinion. In both his sophomore and junior season, he was named the top pitcher in the Catholic League, and arguably one of the best hurlers in the area.
Whenever he gets the ball, he seems to come through. And he loves to talk about all the success, just as long as you make sure to talk about the Crusaders and not about their ace pitcher.
“This isn’t about me or any guy on this team, this is about the team,” Rodriguez said. “We just have a great team. It’s top to bottom. I have so much trust in this team, I know that they’re going to hit behind me, and they’re going to make plays in the field. And we have great pitching on days I don’t pitch or if I’m not getting the job done.
“Any success we have, it’s because of all of us. I’m nothing without them. Anything we achieve, we do together.”
Together, they proved they were the best team in the Catholic League.
Behind their ace on the mound, the Crusaders knocked off La Salle 3-2 in the Catholic League championship Saturday afternoon at Neumann University in Delaware County. It marked the first time Judge won a baseball championship since 2000. It’s also the first time a Northeast team won a championship since the turn of the century.
It might shock some that Judge earned the plaque, but certainly nobody in the Crusaders dugout is surprised by this year’s result.
They knew they had what it takes to win.
“Since the very first day we stepped on the field, since the first practice, we knew we could be really good,” Rodriguez said. “The energy was up, we knew we had a shot, our team was the team to beat. I didn’t mind being the favorite, it was a team job and a team effort. That’s the only way we could do this.”
A championship at any level means a lot, but the Catholic League championship is a tough one to earn, and even tougher this year with so many quality teams out there.
But to win together, to win together at this level, means the world to this squad because they’ve been doing this together for as long as they can remember.
“I’ve been playing with this group forever,” said Rodriguez, who helped the Crusaders snap a losing streak to La Salle that included Judge’s only loss this year during the regular season, and last year in the playoffs. “It always is going to mean a lot, but this team has been playing together since I was, I think, 5. With the exception of a few guys, this team has been playing together our entire lives. That made it mean more. We really wanted to win together. Win for each other.
“And it’s not only the players. The coaches are so important. Without their guidance, they’re helping out, being there, they are the reason we’re so well always positive. They help us so much.”
Offensively, the Crusaders got RBI singles from Liam Newhouse and Richie Lee, and the winning run was scored when Brooks Henderson induced a bases-loaded walk. The ace fanned eight in a complete game.
“I felt great, amazing, packed stadium, all energy,” Rodriguez said. “I had all confidence. I knew, 100 percent, that’s the way we all approached it. We have to bring it back to Judge, we’re going to be the team to make it happen.
“It felt good to win and it felt good to beat La Salle. They got us in the playoffs. They got us this year during the regular season when it didn’t matter, we won when it mattered. But a lot of people said we couldn’t beat them. And they’re a really good team, so it means a lot to beat them.”
Rodriguez has a busy summer ahead. He plans on pitching for various teams, and will continue to perform in front of scouts, who are very interested. He signed with St. John’s when he was a freshman, and he’s looking forward to going there. As MLB scouts watch his velocity, which is touching 93 mph, climb, they’ll try to change his mind. He’s excited about his decision.
“St. John’s is a great situation,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great fit for me, they are a really good team and I’m looking forward it.”
But before he can pitch his first game in college, he has a chance to lead the Crusaders in a District 6A championship title Wednesday against Central. After that, they’ll play in the state tournament.
Oh, and then there’s a chance to run it back next year with his teammates. He knows they have the team, and he loves the pitching staff.
“We want to go as far as we can, we’re looking forward to district and states,” Rodriguez said.”The Catholic League was very good and we won that, so now we want to keep going. Keep playing together.
“We have really good pitching, especially with Tim Gress and Kaiden Laverty. If I don’t have it, they do. They’re two of the best right there. Tim and I are juniors, Kaiden is a sophomore. They’ll be even better next year.”
So will Rodriguez. But don’t ask him about it. He’s all for talking about his boys, but not himself.
“This team isn’t about anyone, it’s about everyone,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been friends forever. I wouldn’t be here without them. We all wanted to win this together. It doesn’t feel real, but it definitely feels great.”