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Sports Article
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Bogucki to Embark on Professional Baseball Career with Nationals

            Last summer, on his way to Madison, Wisconsin, A.J. Bogucki reconnected with a childhood friend in Indiana. During the visit, Bogucki learned a split fingered fastball from a high school pitching coach.

                One year later Bogucki, a graduate of Boyertown Area Senior High School, is ready to embark on a career in professional baseball.

                The University of North Carolina pitcher will accept a contract offer from the Washington Nationals, the team that drafted him last week in the eighth round (244th overall) of MLB's annual Player Draft.

                "I'm ready to play professional baseball," said Bogucki, who flew to Viera, Florida on Wednesday and expects to sign a contract Thursday or Friday. "It's every little kid's dream."

                The Gilbertsville native, who was chosen by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round of the 2013 draft, averaged more than a strikeout an inning in 28 relief appearances for the Tar Heels. The junior posted a 5-5 record with a 2.86 ERA.  "My junior year went pretty well," he siad.

                Selected unusually high for a non-starter, Bogucki said the Nationals liked his size, listed at 6-foot-3, and velocity.  His fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph, and he normally throws it between 90 and 94 mph.

                However, Bogucki credited the development of his splitter, which he uses as an out pitch against right-handed hitters, for allowing him to log 50-1/3 innings which led all North Carolina relievers this spring.

                He said the third pitch will allow him to begin his professional career with the Nationals, most likely with the Auburn Doubledays in the short season New York-Penn League, as a starting pitcher.

                "I try and throw at least one to every left-handed hitter I face," Bogucki said.

                Last June, on his journey to join the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods wooden bat league, Bogucki hoped to replace his changeup, which he described as 87 miles per hour and straight.

                "It was terrible," he said.

                During a visit in Noblesville, Indiana with a friend he met as a 12-year-old playing in Cooperstown, N.Y., Bogucki learned the splitter from Jay Lehr, the pitching coach at Carmel High School and president of the Power Alley Baseball Academy.

                Bugucki threw the pitch, which moves down and away to right handed hitters, for the Mallards last summer.  In 43-2/3 innings he compiled a 3-4 record and a 3.91 ERA in 10 starts.

                In the spring, as he continued to refine the pitch, Bogucki became an integral member of North Carolina's bullpen. He accumulated several multiple-inning outings against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.  He earned a victory with five shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over Notre Dame on May 16.

                "I threw the ball really well in my first three outings," said Bogucki, who threw 23 innings as a freshman and 16 as a sophomore. "My confidence really grew from there."







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