VANDALIA – From the very moment it was announced that Tippecanoe was joining the GWOC American North, a burgeoning rivalry began to take shape.
Two traditional baseball powers in one division, slugging it out for bragging rights and of course that coveted championship.
When the 2017 schedules were released, there it was, the final series of the season – Butler versus Tippecanoe – certainly not by coincidence.
All season long, win after win, these two goliaths have been on a collision course for May 1st. The day finally arrived, and the overflow crowd that congregated at Butler High School Monday afternoon was treated to an instant classic.
Sound pitching and hard earned runs made for high drama most of the afternoon, but it was the host Aviators eventually stealing the show en route to a 7-1 win and third-straight GWOC American North crown.
Early on it looked to be a battle of wills as Butler sophomore Braedon Norman (7-0) and Tipp senior Justyn Eichbaum each brought the heat from the mound.
Norman allowed an early run in the top of the first inning, but settled in and completely shutdown a Red Devil offense that had been averaging over nine runs a game coming into Monday’s contest.
The Wright State commit went the distance for Butler, striking out nine, allowing just one earned run on five total hits.
Eichbaum turned in a solid effort for Tippecanoe, logging five innings of work, allowing just three earned runs with seven strikeouts.
After falling behind 1-0 early, Butler quickly rallied in the home half of the first. With two outs, senior Tyler Burley singled to extend the inning.
Burley stole second base on a 1-1 pitch to Matt Grossman, getting the Aviators into scoring position. Two pitches later, Grossman sent a burner into centerfield, scoring Burley from second to knot the game at 1-1.
Two innings later, senior Damon Dues lined to centerfield, scoring junior Jack Mitchell from second for a 2-1 lead.
Grossman and Burley would team up once again in the fifth inning, on another Grossman shot to centerfield, plating Burley for a 3-1 lead.
With Butler nursing a 3-1 lead, the Red Devils turned to sophomore pitcher Ian Yunker, and asked the youngster to hold off the Butler bats. Unfortunately for Yunker and Tippecanoe, the Aviators erupted in the sixth inning for four runs, swelling their lead to 7-1.
Not going down without a fight, the Red Devils walked, doubled and walked to start the seventh inning.
With a new found sense of hope, Tippecanoe saw an opportunity to make the Aviators and their sophomore pitcher squirm.
But as he as so many times before, Norman pitched beyond his physical years, staying calm, cool and collected, in spite of the bases loaded pressure cooker that surrounded him.
The Aviators right-hander carved up the next two batters, issuing back-to-back strikeouts. And on an 0-1 offering to Aaron Hughes, served up a fielder’s choice to Damon Dues, extinguishing Tippecanoe’s comeback hopes and American North title chase.
The win was Butler’s 34th straight victory over a conference foe, as the Aviators have gone 34-0 in conference play over the last three seasons.
Reprinted with permission from VandaliaButlerBaseball.com.