Bucks County Herald

Q-town’s Bukavich pitches five-hitter

DAVID CAMPBELL

Matt Bukavich was working on his second straight shutout.

He nearly got it, too. But with two outs in the top of the seventh, Upper Dublin’s Justin Horn singled home Riley Brink to break Bukavich’s two-game scoreless streak. It was still a darn good performance.

“It hurt seeing that one run go up [on the scoreboard],” the Quakertown righthander said with a half-smile. “I would have had 14 shutout innings in a row, but a win’s a win. We’ll take it.”

Bukavich’s complete game effort on Monday afternoon in the Panthers’ home opener may not have been completely on par with the gem he tossed at Hatboro-Horsham last Thursday, when he led Quakertown to a 2-0 victory, behind 11 strikeouts and only two hits allowed, but it was awfully close.

“I wouldn’t want to face him,” classmate Jake Reed smiled after the Panthers rolled the Cardinals, 9-1, in Suburban One League (SOL) American action. “He’s a very good pitcher, he knows how to pitch and that’s what’s really carrying us.”

Bukavich is 3-0 in his three starts – all against conference opponents. As a team, Quakertown has surrendered only 17 runs in its first seven games. The Panthers are 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SOL American.

“He was our No. 3, No. 4 pitcher last year,” Quakertown manager Jon Pallone said of Bukavich. “He wasn’t consistently pitching to contact.”

In legion ball, everything began to click.

“He actually picked up velocity during the summer – and accuracy with it,” Pallone continued. “And I think the combination of those things, being able to locate his fastball and his off-speed pitches, in addition to the additional velocity, is just huge.”

Bukavich’s fastball now sits in the upper 80s, and he has developed a split-change to supplement his repertoire. He fanned nine Cardinals on Monday. Upper Dublin got him for five hits and the one run.

Bukavich and Cardinals starter Horn engaged in a pitcher’s duel for the first three innings. The Panthers broke the ice in the home half of the third when Reed raced home from third on a double steal.

Quakertown scored three more in the fourth. Jake Wooden plated a pair with a single; Reed ended the inning with an RBI single.

The Panthers batted around plus one in their five-run sixth. Chris Manns, Bukavich and Vik Morelock each had an RBI.

Reed, a four-year starter at shortstop, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Justin Guidos worked three walks and scored a run. Bukavich had a couple hits and the one RBI. Lake Friday was hit three times and scored one run. Dennis Pierce reached base three times and crossed the plate twice.

“We have a very senior-heavy team,” Pallone said. “We have 13 seniors and they know what’s expected of them and they expect it of each other and they push each other.”

Quakertown’s fast start may be a product of the legion’s team remarkable run last summer, when the Blue Jays went as far as the state tournament, having captured their first regional championship in more than 30 years.

“I think we grew as a family during the summer because most of the kids who play legion [also] play school ball, so we just have a closer bond and now we’re playing like a team, finally,” said Bukavich, who will play his college ball at Philadelphia University. “It’s all coming together.”

“We’re off to a great start,” said Pallone, wary not to overlook any opponent.

His coaching staff includes a couple legion veterans: Bob Helm (Quakertown) and Rocky Wright (Pennridge). Pallone is excited to have a “fresh start” in the SOL American, after coming over from the usually less-than-kind SOL Continental.

Reed called the Panthers a complete team.

“Our bats have gotten a lot better over the last couple years,” the Bloomsburg signee said. “If we get a couple runs, I know our pitching staff can hold [the lead].”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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