Sporting a smile that spoke of satisfaction and a swollen fourth digit on his left hand signifying the latest setback , Brett Bukvich broke the team huddle in left field and ambled toward his awaiting radio interview.
Afterward, the junior addressed the writers with handshakes and witty remarks.
Months removed from his last nothing-but-positive performance, Bukvich spent Wednesday's postgame taking the experience in, the first bit of reward following a long road and a couple recoveries.
The left-hander made his first appearance since March 12 and pitched two innings of perfect baseball against South Alabama. By recording six straight outs, including three by strikeout, Bukvich picked up the win, his first since shutting out Arkansas in the 2007 regular season finale.
Bukvich entered the week unsure of when he would next see game action, but a solid pen session Monday and some persuading of Mike Bianco from pitching coach Carl Lafferty cleared the experienced hurler.
"I threw a pen Monday and felt great," Bukvich said. "That is one of the reasons I was able to throw today because Coach Laff talked Coach Bianco into me being game ready.
"I know a lot of my teammates have been giving me heck about being the ‘glass man,' It is good to be back, compete and have fun with my teammates. It just felt great today."
‘It' is the ring finger on Bukvich's pitching hand, where ligaments were torn before the final game of the TCU series earlier this season.
"I was leaning up against a fence during BP, and (Cody) Overbeck hit a foul ball. Right when I went to run toward it, the finger got stuck in the fence and twisted. Tore a couple ligaments. It feels good now, even though it doesn't look really good. I have all my flexibility back."
Prior to the freak finger injury, Bukvich had made one appearance in 2008 after spending months rehabbing offseason surgery to clean up his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery prior to his senior year of high school and felt something wrong in the same area while pitching in Alaska last summer for the Anchorage Ice Pilots. The lengthy recovery kept Bukvich out for the first few weeks of the current campaign.
Three days after returning from Fort Worth, Texas, Bukvich received the nod to start against Western Kentucky in a Wednesday midweek game despite the finger issue. It was a bad decision for the Rebels, as the Hilltoppers teed off for three first inning home runs and blitzed Bukvich for six total runs in three innings.
"I shouldn't have really pitched against Western Kentucky," Bukvich said. "I couldn't put pressure on the fastball and was missing everything up, arm-side high. Everything that I tried to pitch. It was like I was throwing a two-seam slider because I couldn't get around on it or on top of my curve ball."
But none of those previous problems were issues versus the Jaguars. The fastball was effective, the curve sharp and the change-up presented a different pace. The outing resembled the same Bukvich that held down a weekend starting role at times during the past two seasons.
"He pitched so well tonight," Bianco said. "You can't pitch better than he pitched tonight. He had command of all four pitches. His velocity was good. He was in the upper 80s with a change-up and a breaking ball. He looked terrific."
And he looked to be back in his comfort zone following the lights-out initial effort.
Frustration hopefully finished and nothing but success to soon follow.
"I am having fun again," Bukvich said. "Getting ahead of hitters and making pitches."
Bukvich Back in Action
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