CLAYTON – Every year when the OHSAA Tournament rolls around the rules are simple —survive and advance.
Overcoming both Mother Nature and the comeback minded Springboro team, the Aviators accomplished both Thursday evening with an exhilarating 4-3 District Semi-Final win over the Panthers.
“This was a great tournament win,” said Head Coach Trent Dues afterwards.
Dues and his Aviators got things going right out of the gate as senior Dolen Fults and freshman Boston Smith opened the game with back-to back singles.
After Preston Tofstad dvanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, fellow senior Jake DeMoss ripped a line drive double to left field, scoring both runners for a 2-0 lead.
“Jake’s two run double to get us started was huge,” said Dues.
Butler added a run in the third inning for a 3-0 lead, and with senior lefty Ryan Qvick cruising on the mound for the Aviators, it looked as if the top-seeded Panthers were on the ropes.
But in the bottom of the third inning Springboro mounted a two out rally to cut the lead to 3-1, putting just enough wind back into the Panther’s sails.
The Panthers continued to threaten in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt by Spencer Virtue cut the Butler lead to 3-2, the Aviators picked up a groundout for the second out.
A batter later Tyler Kean crushed a monster shot to the deepest depths of left field for what looked like a three-run dagger right through the hearts of the Aviators.
But junior Cam Miller played the ball flawlessly, making a spectacular catch at the wall to end the threat and the inning.
“Our outfielders made some great plays today,” said Dues.
Butler pitcher Ryan Qvick’s day would end as well with the southpaw turning in five innings of work, allowing just two hits and one earned run, while striking out fout.
“Ryan did a nice job of holding them in check for five innings’” said Dues.
After several innings of dark, swirling skies the raindrops began to slowly fall.
While the threat of storms continued to hold off, the persistent Panthers would not.
A two out error in the sixth inning allowed Springboro to tie the game at 3-3 with the bases loaded.
Working in relief, freshman lefty Quinton Hall remained stoic and struckout Springboro’s Virture to end the inning, leaving the bases full.
Meanwhile another freshman who started the game with a bang was also about to end it with one.
With one out, Boston Smith sent the seventh pitch of his at bat to left field. Panther’s outfield Payton Standdiffer charged for the fading liner and has he slid the make the catch, the ball careened past him and continued to the fence.
Smith legged out a triple, sliding into third amidst an eruption of cheers from the Butler players and fans.
Three pitches later Tofstad laid down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Smith on the squeeze for a 4-3 lead.
“Tofstad did a great job on that squeeze,”said Dues.
After Hall sat Springboro’s Jake D’Amico down looking for the final out, the Aviators mobbed the freshman pitcher, celebrating the upset victory.
It was another great win for a team that has rolled with the punches all year long.
“Quinton and Boston continue to play beyond their years,” said Dues. “I have really liked how we have played over the last several weeks and I hope it continues.”
Up next for Butler is a Saturday District Final match-up between the winner of Kings/Moeller who were rained out on Thursday. The game is currently scheduled for 11 a.m. at Hamilton High School but time and location is subject to change dependent on the opponent and weather.
Reach Ryan Wallace at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.