College baseball: Huntington High grad pulls double duty at UC
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For a two-way player, double the positions equates to double the opportunity, and Huntington High School graduate Anthony Brunetti has made the most of his chances this season with the University of Charleston baseball team.
Brunetti, a freshman known for his skills as both a pitcher and hitter/position player, first established himself as a reliever for the Golden Eagles, but with team injuries came opportunities for Brunetti to showcase his skills at the plate.
That's just what Coach Lee Bradley said his staff had in mind for Brunetti - excelling at the plate and on the mound.
"When we recruited him, we recruited him as a two-way player," Bradley said. "To be quite honest with you, we thought we were going to get - his better days were going to be on the mound, but we knew he would have the chance to play and has made the most of it, swinging a pretty good bat for us, getting some key hits in some key situations."
Brunetti opened the year as one of the team's relievers, but quickly asserted himself as a hitter, too, with four straight multi-hit games at the plate.
"I was pitching at the beginning of the year and I got a chance to hit in a couple of games and I did my job hitting wise," Brunetti said. "I went 2-for-3 or 3-for-3 for a few straight games."
Bradley said he was aware of Brunetti's talent at the plate, but expected the former Highlanders co-captain to make more contributions throwing strikes across the zone, not belting them out of it.
"We thought we were going to get the majority of the time with Anthony on the mound and really with some of the guys we had playing we didn't have a need for him to play a position," Bradley said. "He was going to best help us coming out of the bullpen, but we've had over the course of the season people get banged up and some guys can't play a little bit and he got an opportunity, and he made the most of it."
With injuries to other Golden Eagles players, Brunetti found playing time at third base.
In 24 games played, including 15 starts, Brunetti leads UC with a .458 batting average. He also ranks second in slugging percentage at .667, first in on-base percentage (.500) and is fourth with seven doubles.
On the mound, Brunetti has posted a 1-0 record and 6.40 earned run average in nine relief appearances. He has struck out nine and walked five in 12 and two-thirds innings pitched.
"For him to do the things he's doing for us, putting us in a position as far as still being in the playoff hunt, I think that says the world about him and the upside he could have two or three years down the road," Bradley said.
Whether on the mound, at third base or batting, it's been a solid start to Brunetti's collegiate career.
"Definitely," Brunetti said of the pleasing year. "I've been getting a lot of good chances to play and a lot of fun with the team. It's been a good year for me.
"Just like our coach tells us, you have to show up to play every day and be ready to play."
In addition to his multi-skill abilities, Brunetti's dedication to build strength increased his chances to play.
"Anthony's a hard worker and he's self-motivated," Bradley said. "I can tell you he came in the fall probably about 170, 175 pounds. He sits right now somewhere between 185 and 190, and it's all muscle.
"He's been in the gym relentlessly and he's seen especially on the moundside, there's been a big-time improvement in his velocity. I would attribute that to just to the work ethic and the time he's put in trying to make himself better."
That hard work allowed Brunetti the opportunity to excel at both the plate and mound this season. His role may shift as the years pass and the team's needs change, but Brunetti said he's prepared to help any way he's asked - no two ways about it.
"I'm not really sure what I'll be doing in the future, but whatever coach needs me to do, whatever the team needs me to do, I'll be glad to do," he said.