VANDALIA - The Aviator Express heads south, as Butler will spend the next week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at the Ripken Experience complex. The trip will mark the seventh for Butler since the Aviators’ inaugural trip in 2012. The experience is known for its state-of-the-art amenities and high level of competition, will pit Butler against a solid slate of opponents from Kentucky and Virginia. All time, the Aviators have a record of 18-9 at the Ripken Experience.
2012 – 3-2
2015 – 3- 2
2017 – 4-0
2018 – 2-3
2019 – 3-1
2022 – 3-1
Below is glance at who the Aviators will face-off against in this season’s trip to the beach.
Boyd County Lions; Ashland, KY
Coach: Frank Conley
Boyd County had a banner season last year, bringing home a district and regional title. It’s something that Lions skipper Frank Conley is hoping to build on this season.
“We’ve got a lot of kids returning, but we’ve got a lot of guys in different spots,” said Conley.
The players may be in different spots, but Boyd County is positioned right where they hoped to be.
The Lions are off to a fast start in 2023, and currently sitting in the #5 spot of the PBR Kentucky Power Ratings at 7-1.
At 6’3 Alex Martin naturally stands out on the field for Boyd County, but the junior third baseman and Xavier University commit’s play also sets him apart. Martin is currently ranked as the top 2024 third baseman in Kentucky.
Another towering fixture is junior Jacob Vanover, the RHP committed to Morehead State. Vanover who has a knack for keeping hitters off balance has been solid and looks to be a stalwart on the mound for Boyd County this season.
“We’ve got some additions that are going to help us. I like the learning process of it, and we’ve got kids that want to learn and want to improve,” Conley said.
The Lions are a balanced team with lofty goals – they will no doubt be a solid test for the Aviators.
Herndon Hornets; Herndon, VA
Coach: Steve Frank
VHSL Class 6
Liam Willson highlights a talented Hornets team, which is coming off a 2022 Class Six State Final appearance. Willson, a versatile infielder for Herndon is a three-sport standout and Wake Forest commit. At 6’2 and 190 pounds, the switch-hitting senior has been an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers.
James Beasley (RHP), Samuel Fairhurst (RHP; Catholic University commit) and Connor Godshalk (RHP; Christopher Newport University commit) have been steady from the mound for the Hornets.
Despite graduating loads of talent in 2022 – the Hornets are poised to make another deep tournament run in 2023.
Knox Central Panthers; Barbourville, KY
Coach: Mike Bright
Head Coach Mike Bright will be leading a very young team this year, featuring just three juniors, eight sophomores and six freshmen. What the Panthers lack in returning talent will need to be offset with in-game experience. Off to a 3-3 start as they head south to Myrtle Beach, the Panthers seem to have settled in just fine.
A key returning leader for the Panthers is junior Steve Partin. At 6’2, 215 Partin is an imposing figure who is well known for his accomplishments on the football field for Knox Central. Partin is a quarterback and linebacker for the Panthers in the fall, and a power hitting outfielder and pitcher in the spring. Partin already has three homeruns for Knox Central in just five games and will be a threat in the lineup all season.
Ashland Blazer Tomcats; Ashland, KY
Coach: Shane Marushi
The Tomcats are another young team, boasting a mix of ten freshmen and sophomores, and just three juniors and two seniors. Playing out of region 16 alongside Boyd County, Ashland Blazer is a battle tested group year in and year out.
“We’re still young,” first year coach Shane Marushi said. “But it’s young age-wise and grade wise, but not experience wise. They’re young, but in their second and third year of varsity experience.”
This year the Tomcats are relying on returning experience and in-game learning this season. After dropping their first six games, Marushi’s squad has won three of their last four.
“We can’t shy away from big moments,” said Marushi. “When you have a chance to execute against good teams, you have to. We have been a little shaky in those situations early in games. We’ve been good in the middle of games but bad at the start and finish. Now, we are learning to finish.”