Stone Bridge right-hander JB Bukauskas, who as a freshman this spring twice outdueled All-Met Player of the Year Josh Sborz in being named Virginia AAA Liberty District pitcher of the year, has continued his string of surprises early in his high school career.
On Saturday he committed to “dream school” North Carolina, all but ending a recruiting process that had just begun to heat up for the rising sophomore.
When the summer began, Bukauskas had no intention of making a college decision. But when interest picked up after a strong performance at the Perfect Game Junior National in Minneapolis, and after impressing at an event at UNC, the Tar Heels made their unofficial offer.
“I knew if they ever offered me that I probably would take it,” said Bukauskas, one of only two freshmen to make honorable mention All-Met. “We’ve always liked UNC as a family and we’ve taken lots of visits over the years. I love the stadium, and the campus lifestyle is great.”
The Bukauskases were familiar with the school in part from their trips to Cary, N.C., for USA Baseball team trials the last couple of years. They would visit Chapel Hill while in the area, sometimes peering through the locked gates of Boshamer Stadium.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Bukauskas, who is playing this summer for the EvoShield Delmarva Canes 15- and 16-under teams, threw only two innings in Minneapolis, but he struck out five during that stint, and his fastball was just south of 90 mph, he said.
In helping Stone Bridge to the Liberty District regular season and tournament titles this season, Bukauskas went 7-1 with 76 strikeouts in 59 innings. He walked 17 and posted a 1.99 ERA.
“This has been crazy how fast this has been going,” said Bukauskas’s father, Ken, a 1988 West Springfield graduate and former middle infielder at Navy. “We had a couple other [ACC] offers out of nowhere that really blindsided us.
“It’s really kind of interesting and unnerving at the same time, but the feel and the fit [at UNC] was so perfect. We had such a good feeling every time we went there.”
The Bukauskases had begun to plan for what they expected to be a longer recruitment phase. At Stone Bridge Coach Sam Plank’s urging, JB made a list of the colleges that he might like to play for. Dreaming was okay. Just come up with a working list. At the top was UNC.
Besides Plank, Ken Bukauskas’s former coach at West Springfield, Ron Tugwell, has served as a baseball adviser to the family. (Coincidentally, it was West Springfield that ended Stone Bridge’s season in the Northern Region quarterfinals).
“[Tugwell] told us it’s going to go fast,” Ken Bukauskas said. “And that once it starts, it’s going to go crazy fast.”