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Monday, May 13, 2013
Home-schooled brothers making big impact for Silver Lake

By John Botelho

KINGSTON, Mass. -- In the hours leading up to practices or games, Tucker Bouchard’s Silver Lake baseball teammates spend their days studying math, English and science in Kingston surrounded by peers they’ve grown up with.

Bouchard -- an 18-year-old senior for the Lakers -- can look around his college algebra, criminal justice or nutrition lab classes at Quincy College and recognize he’s younger, by a noticeable amount, than everyone in the room.

Except for his 16-year-old brother Tanner.

This is nothing new for the Bouchard brothers, who have been piling up college credits for a while now. Tucker is set to enroll in college in the fall with 31 credits under his belt. Tanner, a sophomore for SL, is on track to amass 50 before he officially goes to college.

In fact, the duo -- who have emerged as elite athletes at the 1,200 student school -- have never taken a single class at Silver Lake.

That’s also true of older siblings Nicole (30), Thomas (27), Tyler (23) and Toby (20), as each of them was home-schooled. Only Natalie, their 10-year-old sister, hasn’t be home-schooled, and she’s currently enrolled at Good Shepherd Christian Academy in Duxbury.

As kids, being home-schooled meant learning in their kitchen with their mom, Susan, serving as the teacher. By middle school, they took co-op classes with other home-schooled kids, being taught in someone’s house by a certified teacher, someone who was often retired from full-time duties.

"Every year, I'd say to the kids, 'If you want to go to school, you can go. Your dad and I went to Silver Lake and we turned out fine'," said Susan Bouchard. "They always enjoyed and wanted to be like their siblings."

And to continue their education through high school, they’ve tackled dual-enrollment at Quincy.

The routine has become as normal for the Bouchards as traditional schooling is for their teammates.

"We’ve done it our whole lives, so we’re just kind of used to is now," said Tucker. "It’d be weird if we didn’t do it. It’s really not that tough, it’s just different."

Having home-schooled players on his roster is something SL baseball coach Ken Tocci is growing accustomed to. He’s had at least one in each of his seven seasons as head coach of the Lakers, coaching Tyler and Toby before the present pair.

Each of the Bouchards that have played for Tocci has been a big part of the program -- contributing as both players and leaders, despite not being around their teammates during the school day.

"It goes to the show the character of the kids and the family, and I mean that wholeheartedly," said Tocci. "Each one of them has been a phenomenal human being. It takes a special kind of kid to be able to handle something like that where he’s not in school but he’s still part of the team."

Tucker and Tanner have certainly done it about as well as anyone could hope.

"They’re such good kids, they just fit in," Tocci said. "They’re one of the guys. Everyone loves them, and that has nothing to do with them being some of the best athletes in the school, they’re just legitimately awesome people."

Added junior Matt Cauchon, who has known both since he was in elementary school: "If you brought in a random kid, he wouldn’t be able to tell they’re home-schooled. I wouldn’t even say they fit in with us, I’d say we fit in with them. Everybody looks up to them on this team."

PRETTY GOOD ATHLETES, TOO
As far as their athletic ability is concerned, both have played a huge part in the recent success of Silver Lake’s basketball team, as well as contributing on the diamond.

Earlier this winter, Tucker led Silver Lake in points for the second straight year and became just the eighth player in school history to reach 1,000 points. He leaves SL second all-time among boys with 1,171 points, behind only Chris Conroy’s 1,288.

"I’m just so proud of him," Tanner said. "That 1,000 point night, I was probably more proud than he was. I was so happy, jumping up and down. That was probably one of the best days of my life."

And Tanner got to experience that, as well as the Lakers reaching the South Sectional tourney, alongside Tucker. Tanner fed SL’s success too, averaging 13 points per game to go with Tucker’s 20.7, and the dynamic duo wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

"It’s so cool to see both names in the paper -- like ‘Bouchard and Bouchard’ did this or that," said Tucker. "It’s really special, most kids don’t get to experience anything like that."

Fast forward to baseball season, and they’re experiencing it again, and this time with even more team success.

After winning its first league crown in 51 years last season by splitting the Patriot League title with Hingham, No. 11 Silver Lake is on the cusp of repeating as league champs, and it’s largely in part to the Bouchard brothers.

"If you read the box scores, it’s easy to see they’re a reason we’re winning games," said Tocci. "Against Plymouth North, Tanner was the reason we won that game. He was 2-for-3 with a couple RBI. He scored the tying run and knocked in the winning one. And Tucker has just been Tucker all year."

Tucker, who recorded five saves during that run a year ago, has been formed a potent 1-2 punch with staff ace Mike Lundin this season. He’s 5-0 on the mound, sporting a miniscule 0.89 ERA. He’s racked up 43 strikeouts in 39.1 innings while surrendering just six walks. Hits have been hard to come by for his opponents, and he’s thrown a no-hitter and one-hitter against Whitman-Hanson this season.

At the plate Tucker is hitting .317 and has an on-base percentage of .558. He’s swiped 12 bases and scored 12 runs while hitting second, third and fourth this season.

Serving as both a starter and reliever, and hitting in multiple spots in the order only begins to tell the tale of Tucker Bouchard’s versatility as he’s Silver Lake’s version of a Swiss Army knife in the field.

"Tucker is one of the most versatile players I’ve ever had," Tocci said. "He can play the outfield and he played second base for me last year. My philosophy is that I always like to be strong at shortstop and first base, so I moved him to first this year."

And when SL’s starting shortstop was sidelined with a back injury?

"Tucker, being who he is, has just moved over to shortstop like its nothing. He hasn’t missed a beat there."

Tanner’s presence in the field and lineup has been more stationary, but no less effective.

"Tanner is a phenomenal outfielder,” Tocci said. “He has as much raw strength as anybody on the team. When he squares up a ball it goes. He’s aggressive, strong, confident -- everything you want in a sophomore. He probably would’ve made the team last year as a freshman but we had 11 seniors."

With just two games left, Silver Lake can clinch at least a share of the league title with a win over Pembroke on Tuesday. They can win it outright with a win over Hingham on Thursday.

And if the Lakers win their second league title in 52 years, no one should be surprised if they’re led by someone who has never even been present during attendance roll call at Silver Lake.