Newest Bobcat? Ex-Leopard Urso signs with Bryant & Stratton College

Recent Hernando High graduate Anthony Urso signed to play JUCO baseball at Bryant & Stratton College in Virginia Beach, Va.
BASEBALL

Career .389 prep hitter

heads to Virginia Beach

junior college program

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

One of the county’s best hitters over the past two seasons – recent Hernando High graduate Anthony Valentino Urso – is heading to Virginia.

Anthony Urso
Bryant & Stratton College Bobcats

Urso, a two-year starter for the Leopards, who filled in at several positions and hit a career .389 from 2016-18, signed with the out-of-state junior college program at Bryant & Stratton College in Virginia Beach.

In two-plus seasons under veteran skipper Tim Sims, Urso, rammed home 51 runs batted in, was named All-Hernando County twice.

He was recruited to play third base and outfield for the Bobcats.

Urso 101

Anthony was born in Chicago as the oldest of two sons to Illini natives Chris and Nicole Urso.

Nicole was gymnast while Chris was multi-sport athlete participating in football, wrestling and baseball.

Since relocating from the Windy City, the Urso’s have called Spring Hill home for the past 13 years.

Anthony was practically raised on the sandlots.

He began playing T-Ball in Illinois at 4.

He played baseball up north for two years until the family relocated to the Sunshine State.

Urso played one season of Spring Hill Dixie Baseball – alternating between pitcher and shortstop – before switching to exclusive travel ball action.

Though he attended Powell Middle School, Urso never played one sport for the Panthers.

Once he enrolled at the Bell Avenue campus at Hernando High, he played one season of varsity football – lining up along the defensive line – as a sophomore besides playing four seasons of baseball at Emerson Field.

His first 1¾ years on the Leopards were served on the junior varsity squad. He simply couldn’t crack the lineup.

Once promoted to the varsity lineup as a sophomore, he played in five games and hit .222.

Ironically, in each of the three campaigns he did play in the Leopards concluded those seasons as Class 5A, District 7 runners-ups and went one-and-done in the regional playoffs.

Springstead High’s Chris Cesiro beats a late throw to Hernando first baseman Anthony Urso. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

In his last two varsity campaigns, the stocky-built 5-foot-10, 195-pound left-handed hitter, collected 56 hits across 140 at-bats, for a robust .400 batting average.

In being selected All-County twice, he drove in a combined 50 RBI over his two full-time seasons.

Outside of Emerson Field, he was no slouch.

He maintained a 3.1 unweighted and 3.3 weighted grade point average.

His favorite courses included Mr. Whatley’s World History and Mr. Stokes’ Biology I.

He also served as a member of HHS’ Next Level Leopard Club organized by Head Football Coach Robert Kazmier.

Passion for beisbol

The brown-tressed and green-eyed Urso doesn’t hide the fact that baseball has always been his favorite past time.

“It’s the greatest game on the earth to play,” beamed the 18-year-old Urso. “It‘s a game you can’t run the clock out. There’s great competition between the lines.”

His favorite segment isn’t a secret – it’s at the plate.

It’s something Urso believes he can always succeed in. He admits, he’s played against and faced some of the best pitchers around here in J.P. Gates, Gunnar Hoglund and Jack Jasiak.

He’s says he feels comfortable no matter who is pitching against him.

His calling card? His job is to drive in runs.

“When guys get on, my job is to get ’em in,” explained Urso, on his responsibilities.

Mirror, mirror

Urso believes he’s improved the most on his speed.

Springstead High shortstop Ivan Ortiz tries to turn a double play after retiring Hernando High’s Anthony Urso. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Especially his 60-yard time and rolling from home to second base or second base to home over the last two seasons.

“I’ve gotten a lot leaner,” shared Urso. “My speed has come up.”

In recapping his senior year, where he hit a sizzling .398, he didn’t start off as well as he liked.

Sims noticed that Urso was trying to hit too many homers, wasn’t cutting down his swing and utilizing the entire the park.

Once he made those subtle changes, his season took off.

“I started the season trying to pull everything,” analyzed Urso. “Coach (Sims) usually doesn’t critique me. He knows I’ll usually fix it. Once I started cutting down on the swing, my numbers took off. I got as high as .430 before districts.

“… The difference? I stopped trying to hit 700-foot homeruns,” he said.

Ask any player from say Weeki Wachee or Central High, if they’d gladly accept three second-place district runner-up trophies.

But looking back, Urso sees the glass half-full at this point.

“To me, it’s a terrible feeling,” noted Urso. “To lose to your rival three years in a row. Look, there’s nothing worse than losing. Wins are wins. But the losses don’t go away. Fortunately, life goes on.”

On the Leopards’ biggest wins in a 22-7 2018 season, “One of then was beating Nature Coast over there, 12-0, “ smiled Urso. “That was a huge confidence booster for us all. We had our ace on the mound that game (Jackson Short) and we whooped ’em. Beating Springstead was pretty big, too.

“The most satisfying victory was knocking out Fivay (in the 5A-7 semifinal at NCT). Fivay was much improved from the year before. I felt like we were ready for them.

“… Fivay had some great athletes and we knew to win, we had to have our best game,” recalled Urso. “That game was awesome (a cliff-hanging 3-2 bottom-of-the-seventh inning rally). I had the last- at-bat. When I hit it, I remember the wind was blowing in, but I thought it was (going) out.

“… They made the catch for the sac fly, but we scored and won. That moment was surreal,” he grinned.

After 10 wins a in row, however, HHS fell to host NCT, 6-3.

Jonathan McMath            Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“We had tattooed (Jonathan) McMath the last time we played him. I remember he walked me and I got a hit against him in the district championship,” recalled Urso. “He (McMath) came out different than how he pitched before. He had better movement. Even though he didn’t finish the game, we lost. That one hurt a lot because we knew we’d face Bishop Moore next.”

Urso still hasn’t expunged the visions of his final prep baseball game, a 10-0 loss in Orlando.

“Against Bishop Moore it was very emotional. Once you shake hands, it’s over,“ he said. “I thought we were ready to ball, but it was like we kinda lost our mojo before we played those guys. I thought we were amped up, but we didn’t have our “A” game that day.“

Selecting a college

After commencement exercises, Urso boiled his choices for college to D-I Savannah State, D-II Felician University in New Jersey and Bryant & Stratton College.

Bryant & Stratton College Bobcats

He ultimately visited Savannah State and Bryant & Stratton.

He plans on majoring in pre-law seeking to eventually practice personal injury law.

Urso was motivated by his uncle – a top 50 lawyer – in Chicago, who has served as a mentor.

On what swayed his decision toward the Bobcats.

“It was the coaches, they were unbelievable,” responded Urso. “And the campus being 10 minutes from the beach, didn’t hurt.

“The campus is small. There’s maybe 1,200 kids. it’s a lot like Hernando in size. Eighty-percent of the students are athletes.

“It’s got smaller class sizes like 18-25 kids per class so there’s more 1-on-1 time available per student, which I like,” added Urso. “I wouldn’t want to go to classes in an auditorium filled with kids.”

The Bearcat coaches were straight with Urso.

Nothing they said would be handed to anyone. He’d have to compete for everything he was given.

That notion sat well with Urso.

“I don’t want to be given a spot, I want to earn it,” he said. “When I get there, I’m bringing my bat, my leadership, everything.”

Anthony Urso Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Staying in shape

Since graduation, Urso has trained with ASPI three times a week in Tampa.

Three other days a week, he works out on his own.

For the past two summers, he’s been a member of the Empire 18-Under travel ball team based out of Clearwater.

In peering ahead, “Definitely at college, kids like me are gonna struggle early on with being home sick or their schooling,” pointed out Urso.

“Once that hurdle is over, everything will be good. I think my parents have prepared me for what’s ahead. I feel like I’m a pretty independent guy. The biggest obstacle is time management. Everything revolves around how I best use my time.”

Urso departs for Virginia Beach in his 2010 Chevrolet Silverado truck and will trek some 18-plus hours on the road, covering 1,200 miles from HHS to Bryant & Stratton.

His first baseball workout is set for Aug. 20.

His short-term goals include moving on to a bigger university after two seasons with the Bearcats while his long-term goal is to become successful after either being drafted or earning his four-year degree.

On his legacy, “I’d like to be remembered as one of the greatest hitters to come out of here (HHS). Someone who was a great role model for the youth.” 

By the Numbers:

Hernando’s Anthony Urso (2016-18)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

HITTING

Hernando High’s Javy Bonilla throws to  first baseman Anthony Urso. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

YR

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

2016

10

5

9

0

2

1

0

0

1

.222

2017

11

21

57

10

23

7

0

1

26

.404

2018

12

28

83

29

33

10

1

1

24

.398

 

TOTALS

 

54

 

149

 

39

 

58

 

18

 

1

 

2

 

51

 

.389

 

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