Pizzuti easily scores the 2024 Jim Hague Observer Athlete of the Year

Ask any of Anthony Pizzuti’s coaches over the years and they’re sure to have their own Anthony Pizzuti story, each one, a look back at a play, a quarter or a game where Pizzuti made the extraordinary seem ordinary.

“I think in all three sports he did something and I would sit there and go oh my God,” said Pat Auteri, Lyndhurst’s head baseball coach and the offensive coordinator during football season. “There’s times you think, oh, he can’t surprise you, but then he will with what he can do.”

Whether it was his four-touchdown game in the state football tournament at Newton, a 44-point outburst at Hasbrouck Heights or a 5-for-5 day at Rutherford, Pizzuti’s delivered several jaw-dropping performances over the course of his senior year.

Pizzuti’s incredible prowess in all three sports he played this season makes him The Jim Hague Observer Male Athlete of the Year for the 2023-2024 school season.

The annual award has been named in honor of Hague, who for 20-plus years was The Observer’s sports writer. It was during that time that Hague, a longtime Kearny resident, and the newspaper started presenting the Athlete of the Year Award to one local male and female athlete who excelled in multiple sports.

Pizzuti’s selection continues a staggering run of Lyndhurst success with the award. He becomes the third consecutive Golden Bear to be awarded and the fourth in five years. Overall, he is the seventh Lyndhurst boy to win the award since its inception in 2003.

“Growing up, I definitely played a lot of sports and it kind of came easy to me playing all the different sports,” Pizzuti said. “I definitely prided myself on it. I also played roller hockey and lacrosse. I would play pickup tennis with my grandma and I would wrestle when I was younger.”

For Pizzuti, his own personal example of when he wowed himself came on the lacrosse field as a youngster, when in just his second career game, he scored a hat trick after just a handful of practices.

While Pizzuti never picked back up the lacrosse stick or tennis racquet, this past fall saw him return to football for the first time in high school.

In his lone season of football, Pizzuti finished with 17 catches for 400 yards and six touchdowns.

While it took time for Pizzuti to reacclimate himself to football, the 6-foot-4 senior provided a glimpse into what he was capable of on the gridiron in the second half of Lyndhurst’s state playoff game at Newton.

With Lyndhurst trailing 33-10, Pizzuti caught four Shawn Bellenger TD passes and also recovered a pair of fumbles turning a certain defeat into a near shocking comeback.

“He did all that in 9 minutes,” head football coach Rich Tuero said. “It was unreal. It was one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“It was probably the best experience in my life,” Pizzuti said about his year of football. “I wish I played all four years to be honest. I kinda relied on (size and athleticism) the whole year. The plays were hard to remember, but I got the technique down later on in the season and then it kind of all came together at the end.”

It turned out to be just one of several record-breaking performances Pizzuti would have.

The majority of his records came on the basketball court. Pizzuti, who already held the single-game scoring record with 52 points the year before, became Lyndhurst’s career points leader on Jan. 31 against Cresskill, breaking Scott Ryder’s 37-year record. He graduated with 1,341 points.

“It is really cool that I got to break Scott Ryder’s record,” said Pizzuti, who talked to Ryder after the accomplishment. “He was a phenomenal athlete in high school and hopefully the record stays for as long as he did.”

“I knew he had that basketball feel. He knew what was going on in the game,” head boys basketball coach Perrin Mosca said. “I think when he was a sophomore, he didn’t really get that chance to do it. So when we let him go, it unleashed him in his junior year. He just took it and ran with it.”

For the season, he averaged 23.9 points and 8 rebounds per game, earning a spot in the prestigious North-South Game.

Several NJAC schools as well as SUNY-Cortland expressed heavy interest in Pizzuti for basketball. In the end, he ultimately stuck to his longtime goal of playing baseball in college when he committed to Brookdale in May.

“I think deep down, I kinda knew I was always going to play baseball, but I got a little excited as basketball and I was playing so well. In baseball, my junior year, I didn’t have a good season so I was kind of iffy about (playing in college). But after this year, I realized I wanted to play baseball in college.”


This spring proved to be his most productive on the diamond. Pizzuti batted .427 (41-for-96) with five home runs, 40 runs scored, 19 RBI and 30 stolen bases. On the mound, he pitched to a 1.61 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 56.2 innings.

“In baseball, they talk about five-tool players. He’s a five tool player,” Auteri said. “He can do it all.”

While most schools recruited Pizzuti as a pitcher, Brookdale recruited him as a position player. While the door is still open for him to be a two-way player at Brookdale, the opportunity to be an everyday player was big for him.

“I like hitting more and I really like playing in the field too,” said Pizzuti. “I like pitching too, but I think I want to play shortstop and be able to hit in college.

“I was definitely excited (about Brookdale) because a lot of the schools that reached out, they all wanted me to pitch in college, so I was happy that they didn’t mind where I played. They said I could try both (pitcher and position player).”

“I think he has the potential, if he does everything right, he’s got a shot at some D1 offers after his time at Brookdale,” Auteri said. “I think as soon as he fine tunes his skills, he’s going to be a very good player.”

Pizzuti admitted that one of the biggest adjustments will be playing and focusing on just one sport, but knows the singular focus on baseball will prove beneficial.

“That’s definitely going to be weird because I’m really used to playing a sport every single season,” Pizzuti said. “But in college, you’re playing year-round baseball so it’s going to be like I’m playing the same amount of sports.

“It’s kind of sad to think about how I’m not going to be able to see these coaches (at Lyndhurst) that I love seeing every single day, my friends and everything. I’m literally about to have a new family, but I’m excited though.”

Learn more about the writer ...

Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)