Bucher brings the total package to Sherando’s baseball team

Pearce Bucher

STEPHENS CITY – Pepper Martin has coached players of all different types during his 25 years as Sherando High School’s baseball coach.

Some are sound hitters but defensive liabilities. Some are good defenders but come up short when it comes to offensive production. Other may excel at the plate and in the field but lack the qualities of a smart baserunner. In the case of Pearce Bucher, the Warriors’ senior third baseman provides the whole package, Martin said on Thursday afternoon, and that’s not by accident.

“He’s one of those types of players that doesn’t always continue to work on or accentuate the things that he does well,” Martin said of Bucher. “He identifies areas of improvement and he works hard at improvement.”

That approach to his game has been the driving force behind a stellar high school career during which Bucher garnered Group 4A all-state second team honors as a junior in 2017. It’s also one that he has refined while working with hitting coach Sergio Miranda, a former minor leaguer who works out of Virginia Beach. Bucher said Miranda is like an older brother.

On his frequent trips to work out with Miranda at Virginia Beach — every Sunday during winter — Bucher has learned to fine-tune the small things in order to improve the bigger picture, and to focus on improving his weaknesses before honing his strength.

“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” Bucher said, “and I know that I’ll never be perfect, so when something’s working really well for me I feel like it’s time to move on and work on what’s not going well for me. That always helps my game.”

Martin offered up plenty of examples of Bucher’s work ethic over the course of his Sherando career.

As a freshman Bucher was already a smart baserunner but his speed was below average, Martin said. Bucher – who has played travel ball with the Old Dominion Hitters for the last four years – returned his sophomore season and wowed Sherando’s coaches with his 30- and 60-yard dash times.

Gifted with a strong arm, Bucher also improved his accuracy on his throws across the diamond and has worked hard to increase his range at third base. And after struggling with offspeed pitches – particularly breaking balls low and away or in the dirt – early in his career, he became more disciplined at the plate and has since developed power to all fields.

Last season, making what Martin called an “astronomical leap” between his sophomore and junior seasons, Bucher led Sherando in batting average (.449, 31-for-69), RBIs (28), hits and triples (four) in 23 games.

His batting average and RBIs led all players from the six public high schools in the Daily’s coverage area and he also ranked in the top 10 in triples, doubles (seven) and runs scored (17).

“I just fixed my approach at the plate,” said Bucher, a first-team selection on the All-Conference 21 West and All-Region 4A West teams last spring. “I really had a plan for what I was trying to do each and every at-bat, seemed to try to stick to it as much as I could and go through with it. And it resulted in a lot of positive outcomes.”

Bucher will be asked to do more of the same from the No. 3 spot in the batting order this spring for the Warriors, who won the Northwestern District regular season title last season and reached the regional quarterfinals before getting knocked out by Liberty Christian Academy.

Sherando returns three of its top five hitters from a year ago – senior shortstop Frank Ritter and junior catcher/pitcher Hunter Entsminger batted .356 and .315, respectively, in 2017 – but the Warriors also lost three of their top five RBI leaders to graduation.

“I feel like I’m responsible for picking up a little bit more of the slack but I’m really confident in who we have on the team, that they can get the job done if I don’t,” said Bucher, who will continue his baseball career at Shenandoah University next school year. “That takes the pressure off me.”

Martin said Sherando has the potential to be a “solid” team this season, with the club also returning three of its top four pitchers in Entsminger (5-1, 0.20 ERA, 36 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings last spring), junior Michael Usa and senior Tad Dean. That trio combined to go 11-3 with a 1.58 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings last season.

The Warriors do have some questions to answer before their season opener on March 13 at Brentsville, however. The team needs to find a backup catcher for Entsminger – who projects to be Sherando’s No. 1 pitcher, Martin said – when the junior is on the mound, and Sherando has to replace its entire outfield after losing all three starters to graduation.

“In the limited time we’ve been outside, we feel we have some capable replacements with players that can not just make the routine plays but make the exceptional plays out there,” Martin said of an outfield group that includes Dean and varsity newcomers Nick Mazza and Payne Bauer.

Sherando’s roster includes six seniors, and Bucher said knowing that he’s playing in his final high school season adds something extra to his game.

“It definitely pushes results,” he said. “… I guess any time you wanna win a state title, so I guess it’s just kind of pushing that result, but I also wanna have a lot of fun this year playing, knowing it’s my last high school season of baseball.”