J.B. Bukauskas

Stone Bridge pitcher J.B. Bukauskas 

As a precautionary measure, Stone Bridge senior standout pitcher JB Bukauskas has been shut down for the season as a pitcher due to tendonitis in his throwing shoulder.

The right-hander, who has signed with North Carolina, is appearing at the plate more often now and batted seventh in the order on Monday as the designated hitter in the Bulldogs’ 9-5 win over North Stafford in the 5A North Region Tournament first round. He also hit a walk-off RBI single on Wednesday to win the Conference 14 championship.

“It happens in baseball,” Stone Bridge head coach Sam Plank said of his star’s injury. “It’s nothing bad, it’s just [when] you get a little inflammation, it hurts. We try to do the right thing here and it’s about the kids, not us.”

Bukauskas, who was clocked throwing 100 miles per hour during a game earlier this season, says that his shoulder feels “great,” but he can’t see any mound action for the next two weeks, according to doctor’s orders. That would not be in time for him to throw in the state tournament, which starts next week.

With that said, he embraces the opportunity to support his teammates when he’s not at the plate: “It’s not hard to do. I love being in the dugout with all my friends and it’s still fun to make this run for a state championship,” Bukauskas said.

Another hot topic has been his draft status, something that has been widely discussed since his recent rise to prominence. The draft starts on Thursday, and Bukauskas, who is rated among the top 50 draft prospects, affirmed his commitment to UNC.

“The draft was obviously a good option, but my heart’s in North Carolina. I want to go to school,” Bukauskas said

Bukauskas wrote a letter to every MLB team explaining his decision, something that his coach said was an admirable move.

“He’s a very mature kid. He told me ‘I believe in myself.’ I respect that,” Plank said. “He did a lot of research, and a lot of the research shows that, especially in the ACC type of baseball, you’ve got a better shot if you go a couple years in college because it’s like playing Double-A baseball.”

Bukauskas, who was named the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year, went 7-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 88 strikeouts, six walks and 10 hits allowed in 41.1 innings this season.

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