VANDALIA — Head Coach Trent Dues and his Aviators have set the gold standard at Butler over the last three decades, as his teams have finished no lower than second place in every season since 1995.
It’s a rare feat that has been accomplished by players buying into a philosophy that requires hard work, versatility and team first attitude.
They are the pillars that Butler will lean on this spring as they enter the season banged up but eager to make the final season in the Greater Western Ohio Conference a memorable one.
Under the jerseys the words “Earn Everything” are blazoned across the backs of the Aviators. While it is especially fitting this season, it’s been a battle cry from the beginning.
Coming off of back-to-back DI District Final appearances, the Aviators bar is again set high as Dues enters his 25th season at the helm.
“We are coming into the season coming off a nice tournament run last year,” said Dues.
“Winning the sectional, beating top seeded Springboro in the District Semi’s and losing a tough game to Moeller, after being up early in the District finals, showed the improvement we made as the season progressed. Being a small Division I school and competing with schools more than 2 and 3 times our size is something we have always prided ourselves on and that continued last year.”
In spite of losing a number of last season’s starters to graduation and injury, Dues is optimistic and eager for 2019.
“We are looking to better last year’s second place finish in the GWOC North (11-4),” said Dues.
“We have some solid players coming back from last year’s team that we are looking towards to stand up and lead the way.”
Right out of the gate, there will be an unquestionable void on the mound for Butler. Three year starter and senior Wright State commit Braedon Norman (3-2, 47 k’s, 1.58 era, 31 ip), who is in the top five in several career pitching categories at Butler, is recovering from Tommy John surgery last May.
The Aviators are hopeful that Norman will be able to return at some point in the season.
Sophomore Quinton Hall (5-4, 2.46 era, 42.2 ip) is coming off of an impressive freshmen season on the mound, succeeding in several big games while showing upper class composure and mound savvy.
Junior Alex Joynes pitched 13 innings last season, gaining valuable varsity experience as a sophomore.
Senior Edison State commit Cody Borchers (6 ip) has a strong arm and the potential to do some damage on the hill for the Aviators this spring.
“We will be looking to several guys who have the stuff to help us on the bump in seniors Cam Miller and Karter Peck, along with juniors Cooper Justice, Will Yeary and sophomore Kaiden Echeman,” said Dues.
Diversability should serve the Aviators well, as Dues and staff should have a lot of flexibility with the lineups this season.
“We are blessed with having four quality catchers,” said Dues.
“I can only remember one other time in my 25 year varsity career where we have been three deep behind the plate, let alone four deep. We can only catch one at a time so we are asking guys to be flexible and be able to play multiple positions.”
Sophomore Boston Smith (.309, 21 RBI) logged the majority of the innings behind the plate last season and was voted the Team MVP as a freshmen. Smith earned MVP honors with several huge hits in 2018 and threw out out 12 runners behind the dish.
“Smith has all the tools, arm strength, athleticism, pop in his bat, running ability and game savvy,” said Dues.
Senior Edison State commit Karter Peck (.329, 17 RBI), senior Baldwin Wallace commit Cooper Harestad and junior Brent Forbes are all quality catchers as well, and will split time with Smith in addition to playing other positions.
“I know they all want to catch but we have talked about this dilemma so that it does not create problems on our team,” said Dues.
Quinton Hall, Cooper Harestad, Cam Miller and senior Charlie Dent will all be vying for time at first base.
Logan Case, Cody Borchers, Byron Greaser, Zach Fults and Dylan Hartman will paltonn the middle infield for the Aviators.
Third base also has several candidates in Boston Smith, Cooper Harestad, Will Yeary, Brent Forbes and sophomore Mike Masters.
“We have a lot of guys who can do a lot. This creates some interesting dilemmas for the coaching staff but competition breeds success and that is our ultimate goal,” said Dues.
Sophomore Carson Clark who hit .260 and saw the bulk of the action at second base as a freshman last year tore his ACL in basketball, but there is hope that he will be able to contribute later in the season.
Similar to the infield, Butler will have tremendous depth in the outfield with Mike Masters, Cam Miller, Karter Peck, Will Yeary, Zach Fults, Brent Forbes, and Kaiden Echeman.
“Miller and Peck played very well in the outfield last year and contributed offensively,” said Dues.
“Peck has a lot of pop in his bat and Miller’s ability to swing it and run will be looked upon to provide some key offense this spring,”
The pop has been shown early and often with Peck this spring, as the senior has rattled the fences a number of times and went deep against Hamilton in the preseason.
“Our lineup will probably change depending upon who is on the hill and who is hot,” said Dues.
“Many of our guys worked very hard in the off season and several are multiple sports guys,” said Dues.
“They seem to have good chemistry and I am really looking forward to going to war with them. We have potential and now we have to put it all together. We will give it everything we have to make that happen.”
Reprinted with permission from VandaliaButlerBaseball.com