Hampton infielder finds pop over summer

Saturday, August 13, 2022 | 1:39 PM

During his first two seasons as Hampton’s starting second baseman, Anthony Bucci was known as a flashy fielder without much pop in his bat.

He has gone hardcore to change that.

Bucci, who is entering his senior year, turned himself into a more formidable presence at the plate this summer playing for the Hardcore Elite travel baseball team.

“Overall, the big thing was I definitely found more power this year,” he said. “I’ve been lifting a lot. I saw that translate to more power at the plate, for sure. Rather than just singles, I had a lot of extra-base hits.”

Competing in tournaments and showcase events around Western Pennsylvania this summer, Bucci hit .380 with five doubles, four triples and 16 RBIs with the 17U Red team.

The highlight of the summer was a walk-off double to center field to help Hardcore Elite defeat Flood City Elite, a team out of Johnstown/Altoona, at the No Offseason Exposure event in Russellton.

Hardcore Elite manager Joel Dombkowski said Bucci has made noticeable strides at the plate, particularly with his swing and his bat path.

“I think he definitely took a step forward in his development as a baseball player,” Dombkowski said. “He is a quiet leader. He lets his playing do the talking. The players on our team look up to him.”

Bucci was named first-team all-section as a sophomore after batting .400 in section play with a team-best 14 RBIs and displaying his exceptional glove with error-free ball at second base.

Last spring, he gained second-team all-section honors as Hampton (10-10) opened 8-0 in section play, its best start since 2013, and reached the playoffs for the 14th time in the past 16 seasons.

Wanting to build on his junior season, Bucci played about 25 games this summer with the Hardcore Elite, a travel baseball program owned by former MLB coach and executive Brian Graham.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Bucci started at shortstop and typically batted third in the lineup. He also attended the WPIAL showcase event at Washington & Jefferson and other showcases at Slippery Rock and Seton Hill.

“He had very competitive at-bats,” Dombkowski said. “He made some spectacular plays at shortstop throughout the summer and carried himself like a potential college baseball player.”

Bucci’s summer season ended in late July, but he was encouraged with his progress during this offseason as he prepares for his final year with coach Kellen Wheeler’s Talbots.

“I think it went pretty well this year, just as far as my team,” he said. “We won a decent amount of games and personally I think I had a pretty good summer.

“I think I played well overall. I think I hit pretty well at a lot of (the showcases). And fielding. My glove is pretty good.”

Bucci wasn’t the only rising senior baseball player to work on his sport this summer. Pitcher/outfielder Ryan Apaliski, a first-team all-section selection last spring, played for the Pittsburgh Spikes and shortstop/pitcher Eric Weeks traveled with the Pittsburgh Stars.

Hampton will move from Class 5A to Class 4A this spring as part of the offseason realignment. The Talbots’ new home, Section 4-4A, includes Highlands, Indiana, Kiski Area, Knoch and North Catholic.

“I’m definitely excited,” Bucci said. “I think we could be pretty good, for sure.”

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