by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior pitcher Carter Buuck struck out 14 batters in his season debut 10-0 win over Dayton on Thursday.

Back and better than ever, Carter Buuck and the Valley Catholic baseball team showed no signs of corrosion or complacency in their 10-0 season-opening win against Dayton.

Just two days after throwing on the mound for the first time since tearing his ACL during the basketball season, Buuck carried a perfect game into the fifth before giving way to Jacob Vincent. Buuck was pulled by head coach Pat Thomas after a sterling 14-strikeout performance that surely alerted the rest of the 3A ranks that the flame-throwing lefty is just as frightening as he was last season.

“He looked like the normal Carter Buuck,” said senior Liam Walsh. “We all weren’t sure how much he could do, but it was great to see him get up on the mound and dominate like he used to.”

Two weeks after injuring his knee on the hardwood against Portland Adventist in January, Buuck told Thomas he wanted to throw again no matter the potential future negative ramifications. The two threw bullpen sessions throughout the winter, which helped the first-team all-state hurler regain confidence in the damaged ligament and, get the groove back tossing the pill.

Still, after an uninspiring practice exhibition on the bump on Tuesday, Buuck was skeptical about how his season debut would play out. Those worries quickly vanished without a trace as Buuck struck out the first six batters he faced on his way to punching out 14 of the 15 Pirates on a limited pitch count.

“I was kind of unsure how today was going to go,” said Buuck. “But, just the love for the game and how much I wanted to win this game helped calm me down and really throw strikes. My fastball felt good. My off-speed was looking good. In the first game everything’s a little rough, but as the season goes on I’m hoping to master everything and be able to take any team down.”

Dominating a Dayton team that Buuck and company beat in the first round of the 3A playoffs last season, the Valiants belted out seven runs in the first three innings with Clay Kemper knocking in two, Buuck picking up a sacrifice fly and Ethan Cape driving in another score.

“We had about as great of a first game as you could possibly have,” said Buuck. “We played well in the field, we threw the ball well, and most importantly we hit the ball up and down the lineup. Everybody was hitting. Everybody was playing well.”

Liam Meagher and Sam Teague tacked on RBIs in the second inning, giving Buuck a sizable bump to play with on the mound. Blowing his customary fastball through the strike zone and mixing in a little off-speed sauce to saunter Dayton, Buuck pitched liked his knee was 100 percent. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic freshman Aidan Welsh, right,  is one of many speedy Valiants on the diamond this season seeking to take the extra bag and push the pace.

“When Carter’s pitching it just takes the other team out of its offense,” said Walsh. “As soon as we get on the sticks, Teague and Meagher can hit the ball and we get it going. It felt great to be back on the field again, we’ve all been waiting for this. We feel like we have a great team and we’ve just been hyped for this season.”

“We played well in every part of the game,” said Teague. “If we play like we did today, I think we’ll win a lot of games this year. We wanted to get a lot of hacks early in the count before they got ahead and got into their off-speed stuff. We want to be aggressive early and put as many good, balanced swings as we can on the ball.”

By getting the bat on the ball, Valley was able to coerce Dayton into making dubious errors in the field, which let the Valiants be extra assertive while running the bases. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior outfielder Sam Teague triggered a 10-0 victory over Dayton with a pair of RBIs.

For example, with two outs in the bottom of the second, Meagher bustled from first to third base on a throwing error by the Pirate catcher who tried to catch Meagher stealing second base. Then, second baseman Alex Hyland drove in the Valiant backstop with a single up the middle that extended Valley’s edge to 6-0.

“An extra base is that much closer to scoring,” said Teague. “So, instead of being 180 feet away from the plate, we’re just 90. Then, we can score that many more runs and have that many more opportunities to beat anybody. We want to be as aggressive as we can and have no mercy on the base paths. We want to make the other team make the perfect play.”

With so much speed to deploy and so many good contact hitters in the lineup, Teague and Walsh said it’s only natural that hustle plays like Meagher’s gallop in the second stanza become the norm.

“We’ve never been this aggressive on the bases,” said Walsh. “We have a lot of fast guys like (Teague and Hyland). And the guys that aren’t as fast have the head to get on the base paths and go. That’s something we’ve been working on, and it definitely showed today.”

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