Tippecanoe squandered an early lead, but got two clutch two out hits late to hand Butler its first division loss in three seasons.
Tipp City—On May 2 in baseball history:
In 1917: Fred Toney of the Cincinnati Reds and Hippo Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs pitched a double no-hitter for nine innings, but the Reds won 1-0 on two hits in the 10th. Jim Thorpe drove in the winning run.
1939: Lou Gehrig of the Yankees did not play against the Detroit Tigers at Briggs Stadium, ending at 2,130 his streak of consecutive games played. Gehrig never played again.
2000: Atlanta became the first NL team in 49 years to win 15 consecutive games by defeating Los Angeles 5-3.
2005: Jim Edmonds hit a three-run homer off closer Danny Graves, and John Mabry added a two-run shot that completed the greatest ninth-inning comeback in St. Louis Cardinals history. The Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs in the top of the ninth to beat Cincinnati 10-9. (Some of you probably remember that, eh?)
Now add this to the list for 2017: The Vandalia Butler Aviators lost a GWOC North baseball game.
It happened at Clawson Field, where the home-standing Red Devils rallied for four runs in the bottom of the 6th to hand the Aviators a 6-4 defeat, ending Butler’s 34 game divisional winning streak.
Butler clinched its third straight division title Monday night with a 7-1 win over Tipp, and had not lost in the division since May 6, 2014.
“We needed that one in the worst way,” veteran Tippecanoe coach Bruce Cahill said. “We stunk it up at their place last night, committed three errors in the 6th inning to let a close game get away from us. They may have been a little flat after winning the league, but we still had to go out and win the game.”
The Red Devils jumped in front in the second. Senior center-fielder Clay Barney plated the first run with a two out single, and another run scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead.
Senior Right-hander Aaron Hughes sailed through the Butler order the first time around: nine up and nine down, striking out the side in the third. The Aviators started chipping away at that lead in the fourth.
Damon Dues led the inning with a single, the Aviators first hit of the game. After two ground-ball outs, Matt Grossman singled to drive in his team-leading 25th run of the season to cut the lead to 2-1.
Butler took the lead in the fifth. Logan Flatt led the inning with an infield hit and stole second. After back to back strikeouts, Dues walked and Preston Tofstad hit a dribbler up the middle. The ball was bobbled around the second base bag, and Flatt scored all the way from second to tie the game.
Ty Burley walked to load the bases, and Grossman struck again, lining a two run single to give Butler a 4-2 lead.
It looked like Burley, a right-hander who entered the game with a 5-0 record and a 0.24 ERA, would make that lead stick. The senior had retired nine in a row before Tipp first baseman Brad Calhoun hit a routine grounder to short with two out in the sixth. Dues skipped the throw to first for an error, and that ignited the Red Devils.
Zach Losey drew a walk, Cole Barhorst reached when there was no play on his grounder in the hole at short, and Barney, who attended Vandalia Schools when he was younger, drilled a single to right to score two to tie the game.
“That felt good,” Barney admitted with a grin afterward. “I haven’t done that in a while. This was a really big win for us. We were all pretty disappointed with our loss yesterday.”
Andrew Kraska then followed with another line drive single to right, and the Red Devils comeback was complete.
“We got a break with that error in the 6th,” acknowledged Cahill. “Losey had a good at-bat to get a walk, then a ball in the hole, just a crazy game. Then we get two clutch, two-out, two-run hits. It’s what you have to do to beat a good team.”
“We didn’t put them away today,” said Butler coach Trent Dues. “We’ve been doing that, but today we gave them extra chances, and they took advantage of it.”
Hughes recovered from his mid-game problems to retire 7 of the last 8 hitters he faced, getting Burley to take a called third strike to end it and improve to 5-0.
“Aaron is just tough,” his coach praised. “He has had a great career here. We didn’t give him much help with that error when they came back, but he is a battler. He knew how important this game was for us.”
The Red Devils, now 18-5 overall and 12-2 in the GWOC North, had 6 runs on just 4 hits, and committed 1 error. Butler, which fell to 21-3 and 14-1 in the GWOC, had 4 runs, 5 hits and an error. Each team stranded 5 runners.
“This is a big win for us heading into the tournament,” Cahill stated. “We lost to Troy last week and to them yesterday, and you don’t want to go into tournament with three losses like that. It’s a moral victory because we finished second in the league, but I’m real pleased with the way the guys played today.
“We expected to have a good season. We have 9 seniors and only lost three from last years’ team. Playing in the GWOC didn’t faze us because we have played a lot of those teams over the years. Baseball is baseball and when you can throw the ball it doesn’t matter what league you are in.”
Barney, one of those nine seniors, said the Red Devils are ready for the postseason.
“We have been hitting the ball well, and our pitching has been good. We need to play better on defense, but we will be ready to go.”
Cahill has had several teams make deep runs, and says that again is the goal.
“Our 1-2 (pitching) is solid and we have depth there. We have to hit good pitchers better. We didn’t hit Kotwica last week against Troy, or the Norman kid yesterday at Butler. Once you get into the tournament, you will see everybody’s best, so we have to improve there. That’s another reason why today was such a big win for us.”
Notes: The game was played on a beautiful spring afternoon, 54 degrees with a 22 mile per hour wind at game time. It rained during infield for both teams, and there was even about 15 minutes of sunshine. Typical spring day…The Red Devils close the season at Stebbins Friday and are home to Chaminade-Julienne Saturday, and have a first round bye…Butler finishes at home against Elder Saturday, and also has a first round tournament bye.