BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - Lenny Coulter walked into his home with a smile last Friday night.
"What are you so happy about?" his mother asked the Buena Regional High School junior pitcher.
The Buena Regional coaches had just told Coulter he would start opening day.
He made the most of his opportunity, allowing one run in four innings as Buena beat Wildwood Catholic 19-1 in four and a half innings in the season opener for both Cape-Atlantic League National Conference teams.
Coulter struck out five, and the victory was his first varsity win.
"This feels amazing," Coulter said. "It feels like all my hard work is starting to pay off."
The 6-foot-2 Coulter allowed four hits. He hit three batters, but walked none. Coulter used his four-seam fastball to get ground ball outs. His curveball improved as the game wore on, and kept Wildwood Catholic hitters off balance.
Coulter felt some nerves before the start. He pitched just three varsity innings as a sophomore.
"I couldn't sleep (Monday night)," Coulter said. "I was up until about 11:30, just rolling around. I couldn't find my saneness."
While Coulter pitched well, Marco Rios (three RBIs and two runs scored) and Denny Brady (2-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs) sparked the Buena offense.
After a cold and snowy spring, the season opener was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 60s.
"The biggest problem was keeping the players in their seats in the classroom (Tuesday)," Buena coach Harry Grose said. "They were like, 'We're playing baseball today.' We haven't seen the sun much."
Buena trailed Wildwood Catholic 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning. The Chiefs mustered no hits in the first two innings.
They more than made up for it in the third.
"That got our attention," Grose said of the 1-0 deficit.
Buena scored 16 runs on eight hits in the third inning. Rios knocked in three runs with a bases-loaded triple, while Brady added an RBI double.
Buena showed Tuesday why it is considered a South Jersey Group II and CAL National Conference contender. The Chiefs have pitching depth, with Rios, Brady and Coulter. They also have a strong and balanced lineup. Cleanup hitter Dom Lopez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Tuesday.
"We have the most pitching depth I've seen in my 20 years of coaching high school baseball," Grose said. "You need it. In a couple of weeks we play seven games in eight days. If we score some runs and play (defense), we're going to be around a while."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Wildwood Catholic 001 00-1 4 2
Buena Regional 00(16) 3x-19 10 1
2B-Brady, Cooper B. 3B-Rios B. HR-Brady B.
WP-Coulter 5k (1-0). LP-Babore 1k (0-1).
Records-W.C. 0-1, Buena 1-0.