VANDALIA – Since coming onto the scene in the spring of 1995, Trent Dues has been mastering his recipe for success.
His Aviators have secured league titles in 18 of those 23 seasons and have gone an eye-popping 69-15 (34-1) over the last three seasons alone, winning three straight GWOC North crowns.
After graduating key pieces of those teams, sending five of those players to the college baseball ranks, you would expect Dues to be strapped with an empty cupboard this spring.
Not so fast.
With a nice combination of returners, new emerging talent, and that trademark secret sauce, the Aviators very much expect to be in the conversation once again.
” I like the work ethic and attitude of our guys’, said Dues. “I feel like we have the ability to put a good product on the field.”
It starts on the mound, where they return First Team GWOC North Junior right-hander Braedon Norman (8-0, 1.24 era) and Senior Joe Jackson (3-1, 3.36 era). Norman, a Wright State commit, looks to continue the success he has had on the hill his first two years as an Aviator.
Three other senior arms that will be vying for innings are Caiden Serrer, Ryan Qvick and Jacob DeMoss. Sophomores Cameron Miller and Alex Joynes and freshman Quinton Hall have each looked good early and will look to contribute on the bump as well. The versatile Senior infielder Preston Tofstad can also provide relief on the mound, should his services be needed.
Behind the plate Butler returns First Team All-Area catcher Senior Dolen Fults (.364). Fults, a Miami-Hamilton commit, has done an incredible job running the show, receiving, blocking and throwing.
” He puts the opposing teams running game at a standstill,” said Dues of Fults.
Behind Fults, the Aviators can rely on a group of very capable catchers in Juniors Cooper Harestad, Karter Peck and Freshmen Boston Smith.
In the Infield, Butler returns the aforementioned Second Team GWOC North Preston Tofstad (.410) and Braedon Norman.
The versatility of Norman and Tofstad will allow them to play anywhere in the infield, providing an airtight defensive presence. They have also proven to be every bit as effective at the plate.
Senior Jack Mitchell, a Case Western football commit will also see time in the infield. Mitchell is recovering from a labrum injury and will make appearances as a pinch runner until he has fully recovered.
Cooper Harestad will be in the mix at third and first base. Junior Cody Borchers and Freshman Carson Clark can play all three infield spots and will provide the Aviators with a number of options, depending on the match-ups from day-to-day.
At first base, Freshmen Quinton Hall and Junior Cameron Miller have looked good. Seniors Joe Jackson, Ryan Qvick and Caiden Serrer as well as Cooper Harestad are expected to provide depth for Butler.
In the outfield the Aviators return First Team All-GWOC North Outfielder/DH Joe Jackson (.356).
“We will utilize Joe in both roles to ensure that we get his bat in the lineup,” said Dues.
Centerfield will be manned by either Jacob DeMoss or Cameron Miller. Karter Peck and Boston Smith provide offensive threat capability from the left side and can play either corner outfield spot. Seniors Jack Mitchell and Evan McKinney can play all three outfield spots and will provide depth for the Aviators.
A firm believer that the cream always rises to the top, Dues crafts a culture where competition is a constant.
“We have some very good competition going on at many spots which will only push each player to their maximum.”
It’s a recipe that the Aviators hope will deliver a bountiful feast in 2018.
Ryan Walllace writes for VandaliaButlerBaseball.com. This story is reprinted with permission.