Almost exactly one year ago, Dallas Buck concluded his junior year at Oregon State University in historic fashion, recording the final out as the Beavers claimed their first College World Series title.
The Modesto Nuts wish Buck would have returned to Corvallis for his senior season.
Buck (4-4) faced the Nuts for the fifth time on Friday, and the Modesto hitters again failed to figure him out in a 2-0 Oaks' victory before 4,095 at John Thurman Field.
The 22-year-old right-hander refused to bite at the notion that he enjoys any measure of ownership of the Modesto lineup, but the numbers hint that Buck is at least a renter with an option to buy.
In his five starts against the Nuts, Buck is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA, allowing five earned runs in 33ª innings with 32 strikeouts. Against the rest of the California League, he's 1-4 with a 4.33 ERA.
"I've lost a couple tough ones against the rest of the league," Buck said. "I like facing teams more than once.
"I'm not going to throw it by anybody, so the more I can get teams to think at the plate, it's to my advantage."
Buck's part of Friday's effort was a seven-inning, two-hit gem of an outing. He allowed an infield single to Neil Wilson in the second inning and a clean ground-ball single up the middle to Nelson Robledo in the third.
He went on to face 12 hitters in his last four innings of work and retired the final six batters he faced.
"I like to get the opposing hitters guessing, and I feel like I can throw any pitch at any time," said Buck, who flew to Omaha during the all-star break to watch the Beavers clinch their berth in the CWS finals, which open today.
Fool you once, shame on you. Fool you twice, shame on me. Fool you five times
"This is a game of adjustment, and we have not forced him to adjust to us while we haven't adjusted well enough to him," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein.
"And, to his credit, he has pitched well. We still need to learn to adjust better, and that's what we're here for."
Alan Johnson (5-4) certainly pitched well enough to win, allowing only one earned run in 6º innings. Visalia got an unearned run in the fifth when Jeff Kindel failed to handle a throw at first base, and added a run in the sixth on doubles by Frank Curreri and Leyson Septimo.
That was one run more than Buck would need, as the Nuts were blanked for the second time this season.
"Buck threw a lot of pitches early and we had some chances," Weinstein said. "We didn't execute. We didn't get a bunt down and we didn't play good enough defense."
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