VANDALIA – The Aviators’ 2016 season came to a stunning end Thursday afternoon, as Butler (22-4) was upset by Tecumseh (12-15) 4-3 in the the Aviators’ sectional opener.
For Butler, it was another disappointing and premature exit from the tournament, painfully similar to last season’s ouster in the Sectional Final to Northmont.
The Aviators entered the game ranked #3 in the state and #5 in the USA Today Midwest Super 25, but that did not phase the upset minded Arrows.
When asked if it was the most difficult loss of his career, Butler head coach Trent Dues didn’t flinch.
“Yeah, it probably is,” he said. “I had a bad feeling about this game, I don’t know why, I just did. We got off to a bad start, got a lead and couldn’t get a bigger lead, and then gave them a run in the last inning. It was a nightmare.”
Tecumseh jumped ahead early when Hunter Hale hit a two RBI single, scoring Reid Hale and Nick Yeary for a 2-0 lead.
The Aviators battled back an inning later, when senior Dusty Lewis led things off with a double to centerfield. Damon Dues followed suit with a double of his own, this one an RBI shot, scoring Lewis from second, to cut the Arrows lead in half.
It would be Lewis again crossing the plate in the bottom of the third, this time a solo homerun to right field, knotting the game at 2-2.
Four batters later, junior Matt Grossman would hit an RBI single, scoring Tyler Burley and giving Butler it’s first lead of the game at 3-2.
The lead would be short lived, as Tecumseh tied the game an inning later, creating a stalemate that would last into the seventh inning.
The Arrows took advantage of two Aviator errors in the seventh, plating Caleb Ricks for the eventual winning run.
Butler had a final shot at redemption in the bottom half of the inning, but pitcher Jack Dague and the Arrows sat the Aviators down in order.
“We played the plays we needed too,” Tecumseh coach Chad Hale said. “We know we have played close games all year, and we have two top-notch pitchers who can play with anyone. We talked about going over there to win, and we expect to win. We had to play our best game and we did.”
While the season certainly didn’t end the way Butler had hoped, it does not take away from the incredible season that the Aviators put together.
Butler swept the GWOC North for the second straight year, giving themselves a 20-0 record against division foes in that span. Butler also registered it’s second straight 20+ win season, a feat that had not been achieved since 2005.
The Aviators graduate a strong senior class that made their mark on the program. The players and their contributions will be missed.
“I feel bad for these guys, everyone had big expectations,” said Dues. “These seniors worked for this a long time. We couldn’t get bunts down, we missed some signs, uncharacteristic stuff. We really didn’t hit the ball. I don’t know what to say really – there’s not much anyone can say. We were in this together, we collectively lost the game. Everybody had a hand in it.”
VandaliaButlerBaseball.com contributed to this story.