HAMILTON — In a season of ups and downs, the Butler baseball team saved their best for last. The Aviators won 9 of their last 12 games including an upset of top-seed Springboro in the District semifinal.
Their hot finish came to an end on Sunday at Hamilton High School as the Aviators fell 6-2 to the Moeller Crusaders. The win left the Aviators with an overall record of 18-12.
Shorthanded due to injuries and with a relatively young team to begin with, Butler’s freshman battery of catcher of Boston Smith and pitcher Quinton Hall didn’t flinch against one of the state’s traditional baseball powers.
“We were shorthanded on the mound, but Quinton (Hall) did a great job, Caiden (Serrer) came in and we battled,” said head coach Trent Dues. “They have a good squad and they are a tough team to beat but we were right there. When you play a team like this all you can do is ask for an opportunity to win and we had those opportunities at times.”
After giving up a run in the first inning, Butler bounced back, however and answered with runs in both the first and second innings for a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Dolen Fults took a lead-off walk and advanced to second when a bunt by Boston Smith was misplayed. Smith and Fults were advanced on a bunt by Preston Tofstad, and Butler tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Jake DeMoss.
Walks were pivotal in the second inning as Carson Clark and Evan McKinney both received a free pass. A single by Fults loaded the bases on a single to short right field, and then Boston Smith took another walk to drive in Butler’s second run.
With only one out, the Aviators were set up for a big inning, but a strikeout and miscommunication on the base paths quelled the potential rally.
“We had a couple of opportunities and didn’t capitalize,” said Dues. “
Moeller scored three runs in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, added another in the fifth, and then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to set the final score.
“We really improved as a team as the season went on and I have nothing but respect for our guys,” said Dues. “We really stuck together. We didn’t win the league title but these guys wanted to make a tournament run and they made some noise. It’s very difficult when you are a small Division I school and can play schools three times your size, but that’s the cards we are dealt and we have to figure out how to make that work.”
After a mid-season four game losing streak that included a sweep by Troy, and a season-ending injury to their top pitcher, Braedon Norman, the Aviators rallied to end the season, something Dues is especially proud of.
“I give these guys respect for sticking with it and not quitting,” Dues said. “They know how to play the game, they listen, are coachable, and play hard. When you do that, you have a chance. That’s all you can ask of them. We are what we are, but it wasn’t good enough today.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.