South Burlington baseball star Jack Ambrosino wins Gatorade award without throwing a pitch

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South Burlington senior Jack Ambrosino already knew he would be announced as Vermont’s Gatorade player of the year for high school baseball before the news broke Thursday.

He spotted the unique irony of the honor like a routine pop-up.

“It’s kind of weird knowing I won it and I didn’t have to throw a single pitch to win it,” said Ambrosino, one of the state’s top pitchers, who had set his sights on earning the award long before the COVID-19 pandemic precluded the 2020 season.

“I was all ready to go,” he said.

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Call it the final barrel roll in a roller-coaster of a year for the Wolves’ ace, the second South Burlington baseball player to win the Gatorade award — Casey Harman (2007) was the other. 

The talented right-hander blossomed in the months after he helped pitch South Burlington to the 2018 Division I state championship. He had high hopes for his junior campaign last spring.

But four games into the season he injured his shoulder sliding into a base. He sat for 10 days. He gritted his way through the rest of the season but something felt off. Then his shoulder gave out shortly after beginning his summer travel season, three days before he was set to make his first college visit to Holy Cross.

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Ambrosino had other visits set up after that but when the Crusaders quickly offered him a spot he jumped at the chance — he felt that comfortable on the Worcester campus.

“I knew if I got an offer from them it wasn’t going to be much of a decision,” Ambrosino said.

The decision gave him focus through the fall and into winter when he had to shut down his throwing regimen to recuperate from his shoulder injury. But in lieu of the traditional spring routine of pitchers-and-catchers practice and the high school season, he’s had to continue training and staying sharp at home — if only to stay sharp for college ball, whenever that can begin.

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That meant cardio work, body-weight workouts, pliability exercises and throwing a baseball in the street with his dad, who isn’t used to catching for his fully-grown, 6-foot, 195-pound son.

“He doesn’t love throwing with me because I’m not a little kid anymore — I throw pretty hard,” Ambrosino said.

In an unprecedented move, Gatorade tabbed the South Burlington star as Vermont’s top player on his body of work to date without a current season to use for its decision. And in three varsity seasons, Ambrosino compiled a 1.66 ERA. Despite the injury a year ago, he still went 4-2 with a 1.04 ERA and 47 strikeouts against 20 hits and 14 walks in 33 ⅔ innings.

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Ambrosino said this year’s South Burlington team had a similar makeup to the group that won it all two seasons ago. He thought they could’ve been ripe for another deep run.

Like so many athletes, he just wishes they could’ve gotten the chance.

“I miss all of it, really,” Ambrosino said. “I miss going out there and competing every day with the same guys I’ve been playing with since I was a kid.

“I feel like if we had a game tomorrow I could definitely play in it.”

Contact Austin Danforth at 651-4851 or edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.

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