Athlete of the Week: Bucher bringing the pop to Warriors’ lineup

STEPHENS CITY – Pearce Bucher was the victim of some bad luck at the plate early last season for Sherando High School’s varsity baseball team, and as a result he had what Warriors head coach Pepper Martin refers to as a “down year” in respect to Bucher’s statistical numbers. Bucher’s fortunes have reversed this spring.

The 2017 high school regular season is nearing its final quarter and Bucher, a junior, leads the Warriors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, triples and RBIs.

“He, without a doubt, is in a zone right now offensively,” Martin said before practice Monday. “Even when he’s making outs they’re loud outs. … But he’s not only hitting the ball real well but he’s hitting the ball real well in crucial situations. He’s gotten up to the plate numerous times where we’ve had runners on base or runners in scoring position and more often than not he’s been coming through and getting the job done for us.”

Last week saw the continuation of the season-long trend of offensive production from the junior third baseman, who combined to go 4-for-6 with two doubles and three RBIs in a pair of wins over Millbrook and James Wood.

Bucher, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for April 10-16, is batting .487 (19-for-39) with seven doubles, two triples and 19 RBIs through Tuesday night’s win over Skyline. He has a hit in 11 of Sherando’s 14 games, including seven multi-hit games, and has driven in at least one run in nine of those contests.

“I think I’m just seeing the ball well,” said Bucher, who has settled into the third spot in Sherando’s lineup after starting the season batting cleanup. “I always have a plan when I go up to the plate and I always seem to kind of pull through with it and stick to it and make the most of every at-bat.”

In a 4-3 win over Millbrook on April 11, Bucher picked up a hit in three plate appearances, a chopper that he snuck through the left side of the infield to drive in the first run of what would eventually turn into the decisive four-run fifth inning for the Warriors.

The following night Bucher showed off his power, as he blasted a pair of RBI doubles as part of a 3-for-4 effort in a 7-5 win over James Wood. Bucher launched his first double that night to left field; in his next at-bat the right-hander sent a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field on a line into the right-field corner.

“That right there is a microcosm of why he has been so successful,” Martin said.

The head coach was referring to Bucher’s ability to hit – with power – to all fields, an area of his game Bucher said he’s worked on improving with regular tee work, during which he repeatedly takes hacks with the ball positioned on the plate’s outer half.

Bucher’s plate discipline is his greatest weapon, he said, and Martin added that the junior has become more aggressive at the plate this spring after becoming “too fine” at the plate last season by regularly taking pitches on the outer edge of the plate with less than two strikes.

“This year he has a definite plan when he’s going to the plate and he’s not getting behind 0-2, 1-2 by letting a pitch go that he can fully handle,” Martin said. “I think that might be showing in the number of hits he’s gotten from the right of second base over to the right field line.”

At this point in the season the success at the plate is breeding more success, Bucher said, and with it his confidence is soaring. Before and during each game Bucher said he approaches Sherando leadoff man Frank Ritter III and No. 2 hitter Adam Miller – who have on-base percentages of .500 and .585, respectively, and have combined to score 36 runs – with a message: “Get on base because I want you on there so I can get you in.”

“I wouldn’t say I’ve always had (that confidence) but now that I can see what I can do at the plate, it’s really just I want the opportunities to do as much for my team as I can,” said Bucher, who added he has grown more comfortable on the diamond as each season progresses.

Bucher, now in his third year as a varsity starter for the Warriors, has seen that combination of experience, confidence and added physical strength provide results in the field as well.

“He’s basically had two years to grow into his role and he gets better every single year defensively,” Martin said. “His arm’s gotten stronger every year, so now he can make some plays on the backhand side near the line and still hose runners out. His range has improved. His running speed has improved. Every year it’s been on an upward swing.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com