BRYANT – Former Bryant Hornet pitcher Nate Rutherford will be joining teammate Marcus Wilson as an Arkansas Tech (Russellville) Wonder Boy. Rutherford signed to play for the Wonderboys on Thursday morning at the Bryant High School baseball office and said it wasn’t hard to decide on Arkansas Tech for life after high school baseball.
“It was pretty easy,” Rutherford said of his decision. “When I visited, I knew it was the place I wanted to be. It’s a really nice campus, a really nice field. I played there just the other day, the first time I got to play there. It was more of they wanted me there and I wanted to be there.”
Though he said he thought about walking on at other colleges, Rutherford said he has big plans for his time in Russellville.
“I plan on being a starter in the rotation,” he said. “That’s my goal, in the weekend rotation in conference. That’s what I’m going to strive for. I want to be one of those guys that helps them win a conference championship.”
Rutherford has the numbers to prove his potential for the Wonder Boys, which finished 32-21 overall and 18-12 in the Great American Conference. In 14 games and 74.1 innings this past season, Rutherford, who was an All-State selection, sported a 9-3 record, two saves and a 1.13 earned-run average. For his Hornets’ career, Rutherford is 17-5 with three saves and a 1.15 ERA in 122 innings pitched. He struck out 83 and walked 28, giving up 81 hits (0.89 WHIP - walks and hits per innings pitched).
“Nate has certainly been the most consistent pitcher we’ve had in the last five years since I’ve been here,” Bryant Hornet Coach Kirk Bock said. “His deal was you could put him out there and have him throw 9 to 13 pitches an inning, and try not to strike anybody out because that got your pitch count up.”
“I have a lot of depth on my fastball,” Rutherford said. “I was blessed with a lot of movement and I’m able to control my pitches well. I’m not going to be able to blow it by anybody, but I can hit my spots and get a lot of ground balls.”
Arkansas Tech assistant and pitching Coach Derrick Wynn expects Rutherford to contribute very early.
“We expect Nate to come and compete for a spot immediately,” Wynn said. “The stuff we saw in Nate and why we recruited him is he flat out competes and competes all the time. For Coach Bock to put his name on somebody, and Coach Bock is someone I highly respect in the coaching profession, he puts his name on somebody, he knows he’s going to come in and compete right away. If not, they’re going to make the team better in some form or fashion.”
Rutherford is a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball, slider and change up.
“When he has a good defense behind him, he’s really unbeatable,” Bock said. “He always gives you a chance. When you lose a guy like that … he’s almost a guaranteed win every time you step him out there. It’s going to be huge for us [to lose him]. Somebody is going to have to step up and fill his shoes.”
Rutherford, who doesn’t know what he will major in yet, was named the 2012 State Tournament MVP when the Hornets won the 7A State Title. During the state tournament, Rutherford was 2-0 and didn’t allow a run in 11 innings pitched. He pitched a complete-game shutout in a 9-0 win over Bentonville in the 2012 semifinals and pitched the final four innings for the 4-2 finals’ win over Rogers Heritage without giving up a hit. He was also named a Louisville Slugger Honorable Mention All-American his junior season as well.
“I put in a bunch of work my junior year,” Rutherford said. “I came in thinking I would pitch occasional JV and Coach Bock gave me a shot in the second varsity game of the year. I wasn’t very confident in myself because I hadn’t thrown on that type of stage before. Once we got to the state tournament and he gave a start against Bentonville my junior year, it was turning point in my season and my career. I gained confidence in myself and right now I feel like I could throw against anybody in the country and do well.”
“He has confidence,” Wynn assessed. “It’s not so much cocky as he just has confidence in his ability and he does a great job. He understands how to pitch and understands how to get outs. That’s what’s most important and he’s already head and shoulders above everybody else just coming from a good program and pitching in big games. That’s going to help him tremendously going to the next level.”
Wilson will be his roommate at Arkansas Tech in the fall and Rutherford said he’s excited to have a friendly face there with him.
“I’m excited to play with him,” Rutherford said. “He’s a heck of a ballplayer, he’s good in the outfield and he’s swinging the stick really well. It really helps when you have somebody you know, he’s got that bat and he’s just an outstanding leader. Just somebody I love playing with.”