In his junior year for the Bryant Hornets baseball team, Myers Buck got a taste of varsity action. He picked up 46 at-bats but only hit .178 and he threw just 6 1/3 varsity innings. Though he picked up a save along the way, his earned run average was north of 8.
When the summer began, he made the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team with a chance to pitch some. He wound up hitting a little too, going 12 of 39 for a .308 average.
On the mound, recalled Sox manager Darren Hurt, “I didn’t know what the rotation was. I had six or seven guys that we were going to try throughout the summer and kind of see where the rotation ended up at the end of the year.”
Buck got a shot and took advantage.
“He snagged one of the rotation spots and wouldn’t let it go,” Hurt remembers. “He was huge. He sat right in there as our number three, number four guy the whole summer and won a huge game against Fort Smith in the State tournament for us, which got us to the championship game.”
The Sox went on to win the State title, a Regional title and made a trip to the American Legion World Series where they went 2-2. Along the way, when the Black Sox got to the winners’ bracket final of the Regionals in New Orleans, Buck got the call.
“It was a close game and we didn’t lose it because of the runs we gave up,” Hurt said. “We lost it because we faced a pretty good arm that shut us down. It was 3-2 or something like that.”
The right-hander finished 7-1, tied with Seth Tucker for most wins on the team, with a 2.55 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings.
“The biggest growth that I had was this summer, pitching with Darren and the Black Sox,” Buck acknowledged. “That’s when I really started coming along and it’s just gotten better since.”
It got a whole lot better on Friday, April 13. That’s when Buck, the son of David and Melissa Buck, signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career and his education at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
“The coaches and everything — it just felt like a good home,” Buck related. “Coach (Nick) Rountree, he’s a really good guy. Someone I can get along with.
“I visited two other places, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and College of the Ozarks,” he added. “I just felt at home with Ouachita.”
“Myers is a competitor,” said Hornets head coach Travis Queck. “This year and last year, we’ve used him quite a bit in some really tough situations and he’s worked his way out of it and helped us as a team. OBU’s going to get a true competitor, a guy that’s going to throw strikes. He’s really, really effective when he can locate his curve ball.
“Myers works about 84 to 86 (mph) and can flash at 87, 88 every once in a while,” the coach continued. “When he gets up there and he’s in command sometimes there’s not a better one. I’m excited for OBU. I know they’re excited about what they’re going to get from Myers on the mound.”
So far in 2018, Buck is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.72 including a save in last Wednesday’s 7-5 win over Benton. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the seventh, he got the last two outs including a strikeout to end it.
“They had the tying run at second base and he comes in, in a tough situation, and he acted like he’d been there,” Queck related. “That’s what we ask of those guys and Myers did a good job of controlling the situation. He also did a great job against Sylvan Hills this year when we went into extra innings (winning 2-1).”
“I don’t let stuff get to my head,” Buck said. “I just move on. That was the last pitch. I just move on to the next one. I think my curve ball helps a lot too.”
“It’s kind of goes back to what we’ve had in the past,” Queck said of Buck’s progression. “He never really got the opportunity because of all the quality that we’ve had in the past. He’s waited his turn and, when he’s gotten that opportunity, he’s been light’s out for us, really good. I know Coach Hurt and I had a conversation about him last summer. There was a two-week stretch in Legion ball that there wasn’t anybody better on the staff. That’s what Myers is very capable of doing.”
Asked what allowed him to turn that corner last summer, Buck said, “I think experience is what it was. Pitching against harder teams, having to fight, that’s what helped. It boosted my confidence a lot. I wasn’t really nervous anymore, just go out there and know what I could do and just did it.
“I got stronger throughout the game,” he recalled of the winning effort against Fort Smith. “My velocity throughout the game just started going up. When I hit my highest at 88, it was in the eighth inning of the game.”
“I think they’re getting a guy that’s going to continue to get better,” Hurt asserted. “He’s just now figuring it out. Just the velo jump from last year to now and, if he ever figures out a change-up — and I hope he does for this summer. Because his velo, he’s up there in the upper-eights now. For such a small frame, you don’t see that coming.
“This year, we kind of understand our rotation a little bit better going in and he is a huge part of that,” he added. “He’s going to be on the top end of our rotation and I think he’s going to do a good job.”
Of course, Buck and the Hornets still have big plans for the spring. At 15-5-1 overall, their 6-2 mark in the 7A-Central Conference has them tied for second. Buck’s hitting has started to become a factor for the Hornets. After taking over in right field and becoming the nine-hole hitter in the lineup, he’s batting .276. His double ignited a five-run rally for the Hornets in a 7-4 win over Fort Smith Northside on Thursday.
“Myers’ stature is deceiving,” Queck said. “He’s a strong kid for his size. When he turns that barrel-head through, it jumps off the barrel. We were in practice this morning and he’s hitting the ball off the wall, in both alleys, and we were going, ‘This is impressive’. He’s been a very pleasant surprise in the nine-spot for us.”
“I’m a lot stronger than I was last year,” Buck acknowledged. “Our strength training is a big part of it and I also go and workout by myself after baseball and on the weekends.”
He has hopes of pitching and playing the field at OBU.
“According to Coach Rountree, I could be a starting weekend pitcher as a freshman,” he said. “I’m going to try to do infield and outfield too.”
Don’t put it past him.