Herald All-Area Baseball | Lakewood Ranch's Brad Zunica realizes full potential with new approach

New approach allows Ranch's Zunica to reach potential

jlembo@bradenton.comJune 2, 2013 

It was early in the season, and Brad Zunica felt the self-imposed pressure mount.

The anchor of Lakewood Ranch's young lineup and already a University of Miami commit, Zunica, a junior, was admittedly trying to do too much when he stepped to the plate.

That's when an assistant coach pulled him to the side and offered some advice: When you're thinking too much, just take a look at something that's always been there and will always be there.

"I looked at the right-field foul pole," Zunica said. "I took a look down the line, stepped out, relaxed and waited for my pitch."

And when the 6-foot-7 Mustang got his pitch, he rarely wasted it.

Zunica batted .468 for Lakewood Ranch this past spring, mashing eight home runs in the process, and is the Bradeont Herald All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.

He is the second consecutive Mustang to earn the honor after Zack Larson took it last season.

"The season was fun," Zunica said. "We struggled a little bit, but I enjoyed everything about it."

What opposing teams didn't enjoy was facing Zunica, who drove in 29 runs, scored 28 more and doubled eight times.

Just ask Phil Olson. Palmetto's head coach didn't let Zunica swing the bat during the Class 6A-District 12 quarterfinals, intentionally walking him four times.

"He's a great, great player," Olson said, "and I wasn't going to let him beat us."

Like all great players, however, Zunica found a way to do just that. Stripped of his power at the plate, Zunica instead bedeviled the Tigers from the mound, where he fired all eight innings as the Mustangs scored a 4-2 win.

It was the first time Lakewood Ranch beat Palmetto in three tries.

As impressive as the performance was, it was also a testament to Zunica's versatility. He finished 4-4 with a 2.60 ERA and 47 strikeouts. And when he wasn't pitching, he played first base.

"I like to hit," Zunica said, "and I like playing first."

He also knows he is going to like being a Hurricane, especially since he applied to Miami before baseball season even started. On Friday night, he announced he will skip his senior season at Lakewood Ranch and enroll early at UM.

"Miami has always been a dream school for me, ever since I was 6 or 7," he said. "It all kind of worked out."

Zunica underwent surgery late last month to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, but thinks he will be cleared in time to play travel ball with his team, FTB Chandler.

"I wanted to play through the injury," he said. "But the doctors wouldn't let me."

Despite his banner work at the plate on the mound this spring, Zunica said he still has plenty to work on: He wants to become better defensively and get a little lighter on his feet.

But he is pleased about what the future holds, especially after he did this year.

"I'm excited," Zunica said.

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