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Butler making surprise D-I postseason baseball run

Quinton Hall and Boston Smith were easy targets of their Butler High School baseball teammates. That’s what happens when cracking the lineup on one of the area’s best Division I programs as freshmen.

“Oh, yeah,” said Hall, the younger brother of former University of Dayton basketball standout Brooks Hall. “It was crazy.”

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The pair won over their Aviators teammates - and coach Trent Dues - long ago. They also further cemented their place in Butler baseball lore following a 4-3 upset of top-seeded Springboro in a Division I sectional final at Northmont on Thursday.

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Butler players celebrate. Butler defeated Springboro 4-3 in a D-I high school baseball sectional final at Northmont on Thu., May 17, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Smith, Butler’s catcher, tripled in the top half of the seventh inning and scored what proved to be the winning run on Preston Tofstad’s perfect suicide squeeze bunt.

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»TWITTER: You should like @MarcPendletonA left-handed reliever, Hall followed Butler starter Ryan Qvick (five innings, three hits, four strikeouts) and allowed just one unearned run over the final two innings. With a runner on third, he had a final punch-out to clinch the clutch win.

Butler reliever Quinton Hall (jumping, left) and catcher Boston Smith celebrate. Butler defeated Springboro 4-3 in a D-I high school baseball sectional final at Northmont on Thu., May 17, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

“It’s our first year here and we’re trying to make a difference for our school and the community,” said Hall.

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Butler (18-11) is scheduled to play the Cincinnati Moeller/Kings winner in a D-I district final at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hamilton High School. The Moeller/Kings game was one of many that was postponed or suspended because of rain on Thursday and rescheduled for Friday.

Butler freshman reliever Quinton Hall delivers. Butler defeated Springboro 4-3 in a D-I high school baseball sectional final at Northmont on Thu., May 17, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Moeller (22-6) won consecutive D-I state championships from 2013-15 and will be a heavy favorite to advance. The Crusaders also walloped host Butler 13-3 in the regular season last month.

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Butler was regularly a No. 1-2 sectional seed in recent seasons. Hit hard by graduation, the Aviators were third in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North behind co-champs Tippecanoe and Troy. Butler sank to a No. 6 sectional seed this season.

Youthful Butler also has made this unlikely postseason run without its pitching ace, junior Braedon Norman (3-2). He suffered an injury to his right arm and underwent surgery two weeks ago. Verbally committed to Wright State University, Norman (3-2) struck out 47 in 31 innings and had a 1.58 ERA.

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“We’re kind of playing with house money,” admitted Dues, who endured a Gatorade bucket of water over the head by the Aviators afterward. “We’ll enjoy this (Thursday), but we obviously have our hands full.”

Butler freshman catcher Boston Smith races to celebrate. Butler defeated Springboro 4-3 in a D-I high school baseball sectional final at Northmont on Thu., May 17, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Qvick (5-1) has taken over the go-to starter role for the Aviators, although it was Hall (5-3) who earned Thursday’s win. Butler led 2-0 in the first inning. Springboro overcame a 3-0 deficit and pulled even at 3-all with runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings. Jacob DeMoss had Butler’s other two hits.

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Springboro finishes 20-9 after winning the GWOC National West (9-2). Panthers junior pitcher Tyler Kean (8-1) went the distance. Despite allowing just three hits, he was tagged with his first loss.

• Other sectional finals that were suspended or postponed and rescheduled for Friday were Beavercreek vs. Centerville at Xenia (D-I), Troy vs. Northmont at Centerville (D-I), Tippecanoe vs. Bellbrook at Miamisburg (D-II) and Chaminade Julienne vs. Oakwood at Eaton (D-II).

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Beavercreek and Centerville were scoreless in the top of the second inning. CJ, the D-II defending state runner-up, led Oakwood 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth.

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• Softball district finals in all divisions were scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

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