Valley Catholic using summer for 2014

There were kinks to disentangle and rust to rub off.

Wednesday’s summer league contest against La Salle was the Valley Catholic baseball team’s first game back since losing to Pleasant Hill in the 3A quarterfinals, after all. The recent rainy weather delayed the start of the Valiants’ summer season and forced the cancelation of a couple practices, compounding the aforementioned issues.

Taking both hindrances into the consideration, plus the amount of days between games and the Valiants played pretty darn well against the Falcons at home. Valley Catholic came up on the short end of a 12-4 outcome that was closer than the final score would suggest.

“I think we’ve already bonded and on the field it showed” said outfielder Sam Teague. “A couple pitches, a couple plays got away from us but overall I thought we did really well.”

Valiants placed a couple guys out of their normal positions including Liam Walsh and broke in a handful of varsity hopefuls. Valley Catholic’s third baseman a year ago, Walsh moved to second base on Wednesday. Additionally, head coach Pat Thomas used four different pitchers including the submarine style hurler Jacob Vincent. Vincent hadn’t thrown in a game since seventh grade, but in the sixth inning sat down La Salle in order.

“After that Pleasant Hill game we haven’t had too many practices or anything and we played pretty decent for how long it’s been,” said catcher Liam Meagher. “Our bats are a little rusty right now but once we get some more reps I think we’ll come alive.”

Valley Catholic’s bats were sedated for the first five innings as La Salle got out to a 4-0 lead. But, in the sixth, the Valiants started showing signs of what made them the Lewis and Clark League champions during the spring. Walsh and third baseman Ethan Cape go on base with singles and Walsh scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 4-1. Vincent’s infield single scored a hustling Cape to make it 4-2.

Sophomore Jakob Pruitt nearly evened the game with one swing, lacing a low-flying screamer to center that had the speed to clear the fence. But, Pruitt hit the ball to the deepest park of the park and the ball lost steam just shy of the fence for the third out.

“After that Pleasant Hill game we haven’t had too many practices or anything and we played pretty decent for how long it’s been,” said catcher Liam Meagher. “Our bats are a little rusty right now but once we get some more reps I think we’ll come alive

Pruitt’s a brawny-sized outfielder who’s hoping to fill the hole left by graduating senior Carlos Catibayan.

Cape played a solid third base against La Salle and sophomore shortstop Alex Hyland showed off a set of soft hands and good speed on the bases. The Falcons scored six runs in the top of the seventh but Carter Buuck drove in Hyland in the bottom of the seventh for an RBI.

“La Salle’s a good team and they’re pretty deep in their summer ball season so it was nice playing a team like that to get our summer ball season going,” said Walsh. “It’s nice to come from the season and get working, have practices and get the freshmen incorporated into what we do so they can come in and be ready for the season.”

Meagher and Walsh mentioned that feeling of disappointment staring at Pleasant Hill celebrate their 6-0 win on Jesuit’s home field will resonate with them this summer. Pleasant Hill was a great team that took advantage of a 30-minute rain delay against the Valiants that interrupted Buuck’s pitching tempo on the mound. The Billies went on to become the kings of the 3A ranks, but Walsh said the pain of seeing the season end earlier than hoped brought a sense of self-reflection.

“We need to do more in the offseason,” said Walsh. “I need to do more and the whole team should kick in and do more so we can get to that level, the level where we want to be which is state champs.”

“We want to come back next year and if we get the chance to play Pleasant Hill again-just like we did with Burns two years ago-we want to take it to ‘em,” added Meagher. “We want to get a lot of work in this summer, get better at the things we need to improve on and come back ready for next year.”

Valley Catholic’s baseball program is rapidly gaining respect as indicated by their three first-team all-state picks in Buuck, Meagher and Teague. They’ve become a pillar in the 3A playoffs, a team to be accounted for when the postseason brackets come out. Valley Catholic is a confident, but not cocky bunch. The all-state trio of Teague, Meagher and Buuck is back next season.

“When we roll in, we definitely have a swagger about us,” said Teague.

“We know we’re good and we can hang with anybody. I think when other people see that they can’t ignore it. That (Pleasant Hill) game gave us confidence It proved we can play with anybody in the state. They were the state champions and we were right there with them.”

Their group of rising seniors firmly believed they could’ve won the state championship last year. When Pleasant Hill put an end to their dream, it only stoked the flame.

“We’ve played in three straight (state) tournaments and then a couple of the other guys played in the one last year,” said Teague. “It’ll be great when we get into the big games at the end of the year to know that we can be there. We just have to keep working hard and always try to get as good as we can all the time. We can’t take any practice off.”

Teague batted fourth in the lineup as a sophomore but Thomas moved him to the second hole where the lefty could tee off at fastballs instead of off-speed pitches. The left-handed Teague quit football and basketball to focus on baseball in the off-season to zero in on becoming a complete hitter. The decision was rewarded with a 3A first-team all-state pick.

“I was definitely more aggressive,” said Teague. “Before, I was late getting my foot down so I was late uncoiling and hitting everything to the left side. Once I figured that out, how pick the ball up early and really start swinging early, it just really took off for me.

“It worked out for me, I had a lot of fun but getting to the quarterfinals was definitely the biggest thing for me,” said Teague.

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