Franklin Regional freshman Harper commits to Virginia Tech

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | 7:36 PM


Bryce Harper gets teased about his name all the time.

A murmur from the stands usually begins during the starting lineups or during his initial walk up to the plate.

“When they announce names over the loud speakers before games, it gets bad,” joked Harper, a rising sophomore baseball player at Franklin Regional.

While he shares a name with the fiery Washington Nationals all-star, Harper is set to do something the major leaguer did not: play Division I college baseball.

After just one season at Franklin Regional, Harper, a 2020 graduate, has committed to play at Virginia Tech.

Harper doesn't look or act like a freshman. He is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, and mature for his age.

“I chose Virginia Tech because of the value of an education from there, the opportunity to play in the ACC and the coaches who were recently hired there,” he said.

He also had a scholarship offer from Liberty.

“It's a reward for all the hard work and shows me that I can play with the best in the country,” Harper said.

The other Harper, a power-hitting phenom from Las Vegas, attended a junior college before he was taken No. 1 overall in the 2010 MLB amateur draft. This Harper is a fast-rising catcher who adapted quickly to the varsity game.

“I spoke to the coach at Virginia Tech, and Bryce and I talked it out,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “They really appreciated his skills. It's a perfect fit for him athletically and academically. Bryce works extremely hard and has committed to baseball full-time. If he's not conditioning, he's in the cage or working on the turf indoors. He is an absolute complete player.”

Platooning with senior Michael Haley behind the plate, a Division II Ashland recruit, Harper was the designated hitter the rest of the time. While his stats weren't gaudy (three doubles, a home run, three RBIs, nine runs), he was third on the team in on-base-slugging percentage (.757) and had an overall on-base percentage of .415. He usually hit fourth or fifth in the order.

Opponents had trouble stealing bases on Harper.

“He had a 2.0(-second) pop time, which is outstanding. You don't see that too often,” Saddler said. “He controls the running game.”

Franklin Regional finished 12-7 and reached the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals. The Panthers were tied for second place in Section 3 with Thomas Jefferson, behind WPIAL and PIAA champion Latrobe.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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