Mooresville High baseball players Tommy Bullock and Anthony Fucci didn’t set out to become power hitters.
Yet hard work has paid off for Bullock and Fucci, who have become the Blue Devils’ version of the “Bash Brothers” – the nickname for former MLB sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco when they played for the Oakland A’s.
Bullock and Fucci head into the final two weeks of the 2015 season as two of North Carolina’s leading home run hitters, according to national high school athletics website MaxPreps.com.
Bullock’s six home runs (through April 21) have him tied for second in the state with Greenville Conley’s Bryant Packard, one behind Smoky Mountain’s Cal Raleigh.
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Fucci has five homers, tying for fourth-best with seven other players.
“We haven’t seen stats like that in the past three, four years,” Mooresville coach Jeff Burchett said. “In 2008, we hit 35 home runs as a team, but the next year is when they changed the bats. It’s definitely changed the game.
“In today’s game, if you’ve got someone who’s hit five or six home runs, that’s quite productive. As a coach, it’s been fun to watch. It’s definitely an advantage to have two guys in the lineup who can do that.”
It’s also quite a turnaround for Bullock, a senior infielder/pitcher, and junior infielder Fucci, who combined for just one home run (by Bullock) last season.
The secret, according to Bullock, has been the time both players spent in the weight room.
“We both hit the weights hard all the time, not just during the offseason but all of the time,” said Bullock. “Nowadays, that’s what you have to do to make up for these so-called ‘dead bats.’ The game’s kind of shifted to more of a singles and doubles kind of game, so lifting those weights definitely helped.”
“The offseason was key,” said Fucci. “We were out running and improving our speed. It’s all come together during the season.”
Bullock – the Blue Devils’ leadoff hitter – also is among the state leaders in runs scored, with 27 (ninth), and has 15 RBIs. He also leads the team in batting average (.400), doubles (six), total hits (22) and stolen bases (nine).
Fucci, who usually hits third, leads the team in RBIs with 21, good for 21st in the state. He’s also batting .291, with 15 hits (second-best on the team) and a team-high two triples.
“You’re definitely going to be pitched around,” Bullock said. “We see more curveballs. A lot of pitchers don’t throw their curveballs as consistently as they do a fastball, so that leads to a lot of walks, or makes it easier for us to connect.”
The two also have been the heart of Mooresville’s infield. Bullock and Fucci – starting shortstop and second baseman, respectively – have combined to turn five double plays, with 44 putouts and 72 assists.
Bullock also is one of the Blue Devils’ key pitchers. In eight appearances, he’s 2-0 with six saves, a 0.75 ERA and 18 strikeouts.
But what Bullock and Fucci have done at the plate has gotten the most attention from opponents.
“People are aware of their stats now, and we see teams try to pitch around them,” Burchett said. “At one game, they walked Tommy twice, and there weren’t bases open. They loaded the bases instead of facing him. That’s respect, there.
“It’s been more than the home runs, of course, but we like them. These guys push each other – they’re both very competitive – and it’s kind of a competition between the two. As a coach, you’re not going to find two better players in the state. Yeah, they’ve been getting it done with their bats, but they get it done defensively, too.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at email@example.com.