PLEASANT HILL - It was almost a year ago to the day that the Aviators punched their ticket to the District Final with a dramatic, 3-2 walk-off victory over Sidney at Newton High School.
Same venue, same late game heroics, but a different foe this time - as the # 1 seeded Aviators outlasted #2 Centerville for a thrilling 1-0, eight innings win over the Elks.
With Cason Bennett on third and Hunter Richardson on first, sophomore Austin Flohre made his lone hit of the game one to remember, sending a line drive RBI single to left - scoring Bennett for the win.
As Bennett put down a thunderous foot on the plate, Flohre was being mobbed by teammates behind first base - burying the young outfielder under a jubilant pile of Aviators.
"So happy for Austin getting the winning hit," said Butler head coach Trent Dues.
"He's a guy who started for us last year as a freshman and then played JV the majority of the season this year, but never complained and just kept working at it to figure out his swing - and he did".
Up to that point both Butler and Centerville had put a number of runners on the basepaths - but neither team could capitalize as both starting pitchers and defenses were stellar.
The defensive exclamation points for Butler came in the top of the eighth with Joe Mendy making two great line drive plays at third, the second a snow cone catch, robbing a sure double.
Freshman Max Rubins recorded what would be the final Centerville out with a stunning play at short and throw to Gage Harestad at first. Harestad did a masterful job of getting the foot down on the bag for the out.
For Butler, another freshman standout Hunter Richardson (9-0) was again incredible from the mound. The moment is never too big for the young lefty, and he showed on Tuesday that neither is the stage.
"Hunter pitched another gem," said Dues. "Josh Morris was solid behind the plate and our defense played errorless ball."
Richardson pitched eight strong innings, allowing just five hits while punching out six.
The southpaw even took a rocket shot off of the leg from Elks slugger Nic Bruder - but gasps turned to relief when Richardson shook it off and went about his business on the mound, enroute to the Aviator win.
"It was a great win, that's for sure," said Dues. "Good pitching and defense can take you a long way".
At the very least, it is taking Butler (24-5) to the District Final, where the Aviators will take on Lebanon (18-11), after the Warriors edged out Elder 1-0. The two are scheduled to face-off at 5:00 pm on Friday, May 27th at Beavercreek High School.