Bujalkowski the obvious choice as tourney MVP

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JEFF GRANIT staff St. Joseph’s shortstop Santo Maertz looks to turn the double play during the Falcons’ win over Carteret on Sunday.JEFF GRANIT staff St. Joseph’s shortstop Santo Maertz looks to turn the double play during the Falcons’ win over Carteret on Sunday.

BRIDGEWATER — At the conclusion of Sunday’s victory over Carteret in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game, St. Joseph High School’s Mike Bujalkowski was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The selection came as little surprise to the crowd at Commerce Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater Sunday night. As the announcement started to come over the loudspeaker the Falcon contingency started to "boo" before the player was named. "Boo," as Bujalkowski is affectionately known, collected his hardware after tossing a two-hit shutout to lead his team to a 6-0 win in the title game.

The title game proved to be a more difficult task for the senior right-hander than his previous two starts in the GMC Tournament. After a first- and second-round bye, the Falcons opened the tournament playing host to Woodbridge. Bujalkowski tossed a two-hitter and struck out 14. In the semifinals against Spotswood, Bujalkowski allowed three hits and fanned 10, leading the Falcons to a 3-1 victory.

In the title game, Bujalkowski only scattered two hits, but his five strikeouts was significantly lower than his average. Furthermore, Bujalkowski issued a base on balls and hit another batter in the top half of the first. His ability to settle down and get the win without his usual dominance says a lot about his character and mental toughness.

"I was worried about myself in the beginning of the game," Bujalkowski said. "The humidity was getting to my hand, and instead of throwing, I had to pitch and do what a pitcher does."

With the win, Bujalkowski improved to 8-1 on the season and left no doubters to the conference’s decision to name him Player of the Year earlier in the week.

"Words can’t describe what I feel about him," St. Joseph head coach Lou Urbano said. "We have a very special relationship. I think he proved he’s the best player."

In a season that keeps getting better, Urbano was recognized as the GMC Coach of the Year between innings at Sunday’s game. In his eighth season at St. Joseph, he has brought the team from last place to first place as the team earned its first GMC title since 1968.

Helping his own cause in Sunday’s title game, Bujalkowski enjoyed a solid day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double and a two-run homer over the left field wall.

"I was a little bit surprised when I heard I was the tournament MVP," Bujalkowski said. "It’s another thing to add to a great season."

This week, the Falcons will get another opportunity to add more accolades to the great season. A win today against J.P. Stevens will give them the GMC Red Division title outright. The team is currently tied with Edison for first place.

In addition, the state tournament resumes this week and it is likely Bujalkowski will be asked to take the mound. Despite his usual dominance and high number of strikeouts being absent from his performance at Commerce Bank Ballpark, the experience may have made him a better pitcher.

"I wasn’t myself in the first inning," Bujalkowski said. "I usually don’t see this many people in the stands. There are a lot of kids that graduated here at the game. I thought a lot of alumni would come, and they certainly did."

The Falcon faithful in black and green got what they came for, a typical Falcon game.

"Our defense was fantastic," Urbano said. "That’s what we’ve done all year — we’ve pitched great, we’ve played good defense and we’ve had some timely hits."

In this particular game, Bujalkowski did his share of all three.