SCRANTON – Throughout his high school baseball career, Dave Bartuska was known more for his offense than his pitching.
That was until the 2007 Pittston Area grad picked up three wins on the mound for the Patriots in the postseason that year.
Since then, he has redefined himself. He showed again on Sunday why he has such a valuable arm.
The Lackawanna College pitcher hit 88 mph on the radar gun to be the pitcher clocked the fastest at the American Legion Region 5 Showcase at Connell Park.
“I was having a hard time a little bit, with my arm but I just came out and threw my best and everything,” Bartuska said. “I was having a hard time but got through it.”
Bartuska, who plays for Greater Pittston, was one of seven Wyoming Valley American Legion participants selected to move on to the next round. A total of 10 WVAL players took part in the event and 28 of the 56 total players advanced to the Region 2-5 Showcase on July 1 at 11 a.m. at Connell Park.
Joining Bartuska from the WVAL is Mountain Post outfielder Matt Lamore, Plymouth shortstop Andrew Tressa, Plains third baseman Michael Merritt, Tunkhannock second baseman Corey Fassett and Nanticoke catcher Steve Sulcoski. Tunkhannock pitcher Tyler Austin was also selected to move on, but will not participate in the July 1 event due to a prior engagement.
Bartuska, who struck out three of the seven batters he faced, also gave up three hits, but it was his location and speed that appeared to be his ammunition. His clocked speed was two miles per hour faster than Austin, who was second. Bartuska hopes to perform the same next week when he’ll get a shot to play in the all-East Game next month. He was also the only pitcher of the eight participating to get a hit.
“I thought I was going to have a hard time making it through because there are a lot of good pitchers here,” he added. “I’m just going to try to stay in shape and keep working hard.”
Also flattering the scouts on hand with his arm speed was Sulcoski. The senior-to-be at Hanover Area was the fastest throwing catcher during the drill portion of the event. He got his throw down to second base from behind the plate at 80 mph with great accuracy. The second fastest was 79 by Bloomsburg’s Evan Grandizio, who also moved on.
Then while catching in the four-inning simulated game, Sulcoski gunned down three runners attempting to steal second.
“I just wanted to work on making sure my feet were quick and I was making a strong, accurate throw to second and just not try to overdo it,” Sulcoski said. “I know I have to work even harder to advance to the next round now.”
While Bartuska and Sulcoski provided onlookers with arm speed, Merritt displayed quickness with his legs.
The Coughlin senior-to-be was the fastest competitor from the WVAL in a timed sprint finishing in 7.07 seconds. While batting in the simulated game, he nearly beat out a groundball back to the pitcher.
“Yeah my game is pretty much built around speed,” Merritt said. “I just did my thing. I didn’t think I would make it, but I’m happy I made it.”