Sun May 20, 2012
By Matt Wallisa
Vandalia Butler and Coach Trent Dues couldn’t have written a better ending for Saturday’s contest against the highly touted Mason Comets.
The Aviators sent soft-tossing, senior southpaw Austin Craine to the mound while the Comets countered with TJ Zeuch, one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the Class of 2013.
Despite Zeuch pounding the zone with a consistent 89-91 mph fastball, Butler scored the first run of the game in the top half of the 3rd inning when Craine helped his own cause with a line drive back up the middle. Two groundouts would put Craine into scoring position with 2 outs for Butler. Senior Kevin Brackman followed with a clutch, two-out hit through the right side to bring in Craine and put Butler ahead 1-0.
Still down a run in the bottom of the 5th, Mason started to generate some offense. Craine allowed a double to senior Tyler Lawson. Craine followed by hitting Marcus Otte with a pitch to put runners at first and second.
With the pressure mounting, Coach Dues made a call to the bullpen for UNC recruit Taylore Cherry. On Thursday, the big righty pitched a complete game, but on short rest, he looked to limit the Comet attack.
Unfortunately for the Aviators, Cherry struggled with his command as he walked and hit a batter to load the bases.
Searching for a way to score a run of Cherry’s 91-94 mph fastball, Mason’s RJ Thompson excuted a suicide squeeze to tie the game up at one a piece.
Heading into the seventh inning, the stage was set. The stands were packed. Spectators were lining the outfield wall.
With Zeuch’s work completed for the day, Mason called on junior Seth Bowles in relief. Junior John Myers started the inning with a walk. Next, Cherry, who isn’t known for his offensive prowess, was forced to hit in order to stay in the lineup and pitch. Cherry walked as did the next batter, Eric Hansman.
With the bases loaded, junior catcher Pete Yorgen drove a first pitch fastball into left field to put the Aviators ahead.
Moving into the bottom of the seventh, the stage was set for a storybook ending.
After recording the first out, Cherry induced a hard groundball to the shortstop that took a wicked bounce over his head and into center field.
With the nine-hole up, Mason elected to bunt Lawson to second base to put the tying run into scoring position.
Now, with two outs, Mason seemed poised to tie the game up as junior standout shortstop Connor McVey came to the plate.
But, before McVey could even swing the bat, the game was over.
Cherry stepped to the mound. Looked at the runner, and then turned to the plate.
In a split second, he executed a spin move to second base. The short stop dove. The second baseman started pointing. The infielders and bench were yelling. The centerfielder started running.
And, the Mason runner took off.
Meanwhile, Cherry, who stumbled off the mound, took three large strides towards third base and underhanded the ball to the third baseman, who tagged out the runner, and closed the door on Mason’s comeback.
Craine kept the Mason hitters off balanced in his five plus innings of work. The southpaw uses a 76-79 mph fastball with excellent arm side run. He relied on a soft, 64 mph curveball as well as a hard, bitting breaking ball that sat in the upper 60’s. He showed good arm action on a 70-72 mph changeup.
Cherry, who picked up the win in relief, sat at 91-93 mph and touched 94 mph a couple of times. At times, he struggled with command, but eventually settled-in. He stuck with his fastball, but occasionally showed an 85 mph changeup.
Zeuch recorded a no-decision. His fastball sat 89-91 mph in the first inning and gradually decreased. He showed excellent command of a 76 mph changeup. While the pitch didn’t show much fade, he used excellent arm action to fool the Aviator batters. He also relied on a 78-80 mph cutter.
Bowles took the loss in relief for Mason.