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Valiants can't overcome Wolverine, drop semis


Valley Catholic can't bring runs home in semifinal defeat

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic's Carter Buuck and Liam Meagher share an embrace after the Valiants 3-0 loss to Glide in the 3A semifinals on Tuesday. Buuck and Meagher were two of four seniors to see their Valiant careers end.

Two best friends made the slow walk off the diamond arm in arm for the last time in a Valley Catholic uniform where they were met by a smattering of fan applause and teary-eyed teammates.

Carter Buuck, the Valiants’ left-handed ace, and Liam Meagher, his partner behind the plate, exchanged melancholy hugs and high-fives with the surrogate brothers they’ve come so close with the past year, trying to ease the pain of seeing a state championship dream dashed too soon.

Occasionally, the Valley battery stole a glance across the yard at the predictably giddy Glide — 3-0 winners of Tuesday’s 3A semifinal contest — reveling on the Valiants’ home field, celebrating the fact the Wolverines were the ones moving on to Salem-Keizer for the state championship game.

Yet, no matter how many times Glide pitcher Jacob Fricke slipped out of the noose and ran into the dugout unscathed, the Valiants maintained the fight until the 21st out. Every inning Valley put at least two runners on the pond, scrapping with Fricke for every quality pitch and at-bat. Even in the seventh, when Valley was down to its final out, Teague and Buuck singled to mount a rally. Buuck battled tooth-and-nail on the mound, striking out 13 Wolverines and dancing out of his own bouts of trouble with deceiving curveballs and pumped-in fastballs.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic shortstop Alex Hyland celebrates his one-out triple in the third inning against Glide.

When an error on the Valley infield on a potential double play let Glide’s first score come across and load the bases, Meagher caught the subsequent Wolverine’s suicide squeeze and threw to third for the force out to help Buck flee the possibly damaging scene.

“You could see the resilience and the fight in this team,” said Buuck. “I don’t know if there’s a team that was like that in the rest of the state from any classification. We felt like we had (Fricke’s) number every single inning. We had guys on base, but what killed us is we just couldn’t string anything together.”

“I’m just so proud of our team and the way we fought,” said Meagher. “We weren’t out of it in the last inning. We kept our heads in it. (Fricke) must have thrown 150 pitches. We battled really well. I just wish we could’ve come out on top, but that’s how baseball goes.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior pitcher Carter Buuck slides home in the third inning against Glide. Buucks score was called back on the play.

When times were grave, the Valiants didn’t splinter as some of Valley’s past teams have. They banned together and kept coming at Fricke. But, as many of the Valiant players said, baseball is unforgiving. It’s a cruel, humbling game that can bring the best to its knees.

“Sometimes the runs don’t come,” said Teague. “We put a lot of good hacks on it. I’m super proud of how every single guy battled up there at the plate. I know in the past couple years we would’ve folded off that guy (Fricke). We really hung in there and put in some good at-bats. The runs just didn’t come when they needed to.”

There’s no getting around the fact this loss hurt, deeply. The Valiants stationed nine runners in scoring position and put upwards of 13 men on base, only to have none of them score. Valley gave up two unearned runs, and Glide glued together nine base hits. Valley was an unparalleled team defensively during the regular season, yet it committed three costly errors. So detonative at the dish on the 3A level, the Valiants could never ignite that big inning that was considered the squad’s trademark.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic centerfielder Sam Teague runs down a ball in shallow center in the sixth inning of the Valiants 3-0 loss to Glide on Tuesday.

For the next week or so, Valley will likely ponder what went awry. However, as Buuck said, the sting will eventually subside.

“This team I could honestly call my family,” said Teague. “If I had to go out like this, I wouldn’t have picked a different team. It’s just great to know that you’ve got your friends behind you like that.”

When the dust settles and the Valiants look back on the 27 victories, the Lewis and Clark League Championship, and the memories made on the bus rides, the practice field, it’ll be those recollections that resonate, not a singular loss.

“It’s frustrating to not take the next step together because I know how hard everyone’s worked the entire season and how much of a family we became,” said Buuck. “But, I’ll never forget these guys. The loss hurts today, and it could tomorrow and the next day. But, a year from now, 10 years from now, I’ll be thinking about how much fun I had with these guys.

“That’s kind of the point of high school sports — to not just do what you love athletic-wise, but build friendships, hang out with the guys, make some stupid jokes, go back-and-forth with them,” continued Buuck. “(Meagher, Teague, Liam Walsh) I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to spend my four years with. They’ve meant the world to me. And, I hope we’ve left a lasting impression on this school and this program.”