BEAVERCREEK - The Aviator Express ran out of steam Friday evening falling to Lebanon 3-0 in the District Final - but what a ride it was.
Dubbed by many as a "rebuilding year", the Aviators put together another banner season, and added their chapter in the tradition rich history that is Butler Baseball.
"I'm very proud of this group of guys and what they accomplished," said Butler head coach Trent Dues after the game.
"Winning the league, a sectional championship and finishing as the district runner-up is a very good season."
A good season indeed.
For the third straight season, the Aviators made it to the District Final - a feat in itself. But when you consider that Butler, one of the smallest amongst the 193 teams classified as DI, regularly has to knock off teams with enrollment numbers that double and triple that of their own - the feat becomes that much more impressive.
On Friday the Aviators had to battle that and then some with rain and the imposing arm of Wichita State commit Parker Dillhoff.
While the towering lefty's curveball wasn't hitting the mark - his consistent 90 mph fastball and fading changeup was enough to keep Butler batters off balance for most of the game.
"We battled a very good pitcher to the end," said Dues.
The Lebanon southpaw rang up fourteen and held Butler to just one hit - a well hit liner to right by senior Gage Harestad. In spite of the bats going cold, Butler had opportunities as Dillhoff walked seven Aviators.
For Butler it was just a hard luck day at the plate and on the basepaths - but like the sun peaking through the dark gray clouds over Stewart Field the Aviators had a gleam of hope in the top of the fifth.
Luke Mitchell and Hunter Richardson drew to walks to give Butler two on with one out, and a chance to narrow the 3-0 margin. Joe Mendy ripped a solid shot to right field, only to be robbed by a great catch by Lebanon's Colton Hartman, who then made a quick throw back to second for the inning ending double play.
"With a guy like Dillhoff on the mound, you've got to get some breaks or big hits and we just didn't get that today", Dues said.
"We had a solid group of guys and I'm proud of each and every one of them."