Butler’s best chance to score came in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out. Leadoff man Quinton Hall walked, Carson Clark singled on a hit-and-run play through the spot vacated by the shortstop and Boston Smith was hit by a pitch. Kaden Echeman popped to shallow left for what looked like a hit until Elder shortstop Jeremy Ward made a diving catch over his shoulder.
Butler tried to get the speedy Hamilton home by forcing the catcher into a pickoff throw to first. But the return throw was just in time to get Hamilton and end the inning.
Echeman pitched seven shutout innings, but he was so close to 125-pitch limit rule that Dues turned to freshman Jordan Taylor to start the eighth. A leadoff single off the glove of the diving Hamilton was followed by two more singles to lead the bases.
Taylor walked the next batter then hit a batter for a 2-0 Elder lead. A sacrifice fly and a wild pitch made it 4-0.
“He’s only 15 years old,” said Smith, Butler’s senior catcher. “For him to step up in a regional final game, I was proud of him. He did his job. He threw strikes, got his off-speed over. He really competed.”
Dues said, “Jordan’s been great for us all year. It’s not his fault. They had some things roll their way.”
Before the eighth, Echeman and the defense in front of him – Smith – and behind him kept Elder from scoring.
In the second inning, Smith showed off the strong arm that has led him to sign with the University of Cincinnati and will lead to being drafted in July. He picked a runner off first (and got another one later in the game). In the third, Clark, the senior shortstop, started a double play. He had already made a great stop and throw to first for an out in the first inning.
In the sixth, Elder catcher Brennan Martin hit a standup triple with one out. With the infield in, Clark backhanded a sharp grounder, held Martin at third, and threw to first for the out. Then Echeman struck out Jackson Gutzwiller with a high fastball and came off the mound pumping up his team.
“That was one of the cooler moments of today’s game because we never quit,” Smith said. “It was just a constant will to keep going.”
Getting out of the tough spots kept Echeman’s adrenaline going as he his pitch count rose.
“When I struck them out it felt pretty good and felt like we were one inch closer to winning,” he said. “The defense played amazing. They were making plays for me when I wasn’t pitching my best. When I was pitching my best, they made plays too. I love my defense.”