CENTERVILLE – Thursday’s sectional championship game between Butler and Beavercreek played out just as expected – a tense pitcher’s dual won in the last at bat.
Fortunately, the Aviators (25-4) came out on top after the game was forced into extra innings in a scoreless tie. Butler’s Joe Jackson hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Preston Tofstad to complete a 2-1 come-from-behind victory for the Aviators.
“Wow,” said Butler head coach Trent Dues. “How many innings did we play? Eight? It felt like 20. What do you say? We got down, didn’t lose our composure, and got the job done. That was a heck of a game.”
Tyler Burley picked up the win in relief of Braedon Norman in a dual of sterling pitchers.
“You have to give kudos to Burley and Norman,” said Dues. “They had a heck of a game. Braedon didn’t do anything wrong, I just thought after they had seen him three times I just felt like they needed to see somebody new.”
Beavercreek’s leftie Brandon DeWitt kept the Aviators off balance for 7+ innings before being relieved by Treben Funderburg in the top of the eighth.
“Thank God for a pitch count,” said Butler head coach Trent Dues.
Funderburg relieved DeWitt after surrendering a four-pitch walk to Norman to lead off the eighth inning. Damon Dues advanced Norman to second with a sacrifice bunt down the third base line. Tofstad worked Funderburg for a walk after falling behind in the count.
Damon Dues pushed Norman to second on a hard bunt to third, and then Tofstad was walked to put runners at first and second. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Funderburg which set up the game-winning dramatics.
Burley hit a hard grounder to third and Norman immediately headed for home which forced a rushed throw by the Beaver third baseman. The ball bounced well short of home plate and the ‘Creek catcher couldn’t come up with it in time and Norman scored to tie the game at 1-1.
“We got aggressive with our base running and forced a mistake,” said Dues.
Beavercreek gave Matt Grossman an intentional walk to load the bases. That set the stage for Jackson who hit a fly ball to center field. Tofstad tagged from third and beat a strong throw by the defense to score the game winning run.
“I think we only had a couple of hits, but Joe Jackson did a great job putting the ball in play,” said Dues. “We made it work.”
The Aviators will now face Fairfield in a District Final on Saturday at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
“You know, we kind of had a bitter taste after last year,” said Dues, referring to the Aviators’ surprising first round loss to Tecumseh. “It’s time to get back on a roll again.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.