Eric Ruth and Robbie Zinsmeister are winners.
Plain and simple.
Both were the cornerstones of a North Penn Knight squad that captured the District One Class AAAA championship, and it’s hardly surprising to find out that both are signed, sealed and delivered to play a sport they love at the collegiate level.
Ruth will take his talents to Winthrop University in South Carolina while Zinsmeister will head to western Pennsylvania where he will play for Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“Both are quality kids, and they come from quality families,” Knight coach Bob McCreary said. “These two guys epitomize what we would like to see coming out of our baseball program, and I couldn’t be happier for both of them.
“They certainly set a great example for the younger guys, and we hope to have a lot of guys follow in their footsteps.”
McCreary’s sentiments are understandable.
Both athletes excelled last spring.
Ruth was the mound ace for the Knights, compiling a perfect 8-0 record with one save. His earned run average was 1.84, and in 53 1/3 innings, he struck out 71 batters. A first team all-league pitcher, Ruth was a key member of the SOL National/Bicentennial team that captured the 2008 Carpenter Cup.
“It has been quite a pleasure to see Eric’s progression over his high school career,” McCreary said. “He got a little time in 10th grade, worked very hard in the off-season and blossomed into a pitcher with talent, poise, control and aggressiveness last spring – his stats certainly proved that.
“He’s also a great kid with the combination of character, discipline and talent.”
Ruth chose Winthrop from a final list that included Penn State and Monmouth.
“I chose Winthrop because I felt it would be a good academic fit, and the baseball program is pretty good,” he said. “I just felt at home there. I felt comfortable.
“I hung out with the players one night, and I was accepted by all of them. They’re fun people to be around.”
In the end, the recruiting war came down to Penn State and Winthrop.
“It was fun in some ways, but when it came down to which school you wanted to go to, there was a lot of pressure, a lot of stress because you like them both,” Ruth said. “It just came down to which program I felt I would get more playing time. And money.”
It certainly helped that Winthrop is located in the sunny south.
“It’s been a dream my whole life,” Ruth said. “I’ve always wanted to play down south at the D-1 level. I knew if I worked hard it could pay off.”
Zinsmeister was a lethal weapon at the plate for the district champions. A first team all-league shortstop, he hit at a .385 clip, finishing the season with 25 hits. Ten of those were for extra bases – he had six doubles, two triples and two home runs. He also had 21 RBIs and was named the SOL National Conference Player of the Year.
A golden glove shortstop, he committed just two errors and also was a key part of the SOL National/ Bicentennial squad that won the Carpenter Cup.
“Robbie is just a great all-around person and baseball player,” McCreary said. “Academically, he is near the top of his class.
“He has a great optimistic personality, and he has great instincts on the field and is very disciplined. He’s got it all.”
Zinsmeister chose IUP over finalists East Stroudsburg and Millersville.
“I chose IUP because of the baseball program, and the coach was amazing,” he said. “The academic opportunities are there for me as well, and I really enjoyed the campus.
“IUP was my bottom choice at first because of the distance, but once I went there, I fit right in. IUP is going to be a perfect fit for me.”
Zinsmeister, who played basketball through 10th grade, pointed to his eighth grade coach, Jason Taylor, as the person who instilled the love of baseball in him.
“He’s really enthusiastic about the sport, and it just made me that much more passionate about the game,” he said.
While Ruth has chosen a sports management major, Zinsmesiter will major in education with a focus on elementary education.
Both credited their high school coaches for their development as players.
“Our coaches have been through it before,” Zinsmeister said. “They know what it’s like, and they know how they have to push us, but they let us have fun at the same time.”
Ruth and Zinsmeister are hoping to duplicate the success they experienced last year in their final high school season.