High Schools: Butler baseball tops Mason, advances to Division I regional final

Vandalia Butler's Quinton Hall scores the Aviators' first run in the first inning against Mason. Hall reached on an error and scored on Carson Clark's double in Friday's Division I regional semifinal at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Vandalia Butler's Quinton Hall scores the Aviators' first run in the first inning against Mason. Hall reached on an error and scored on Carson Clark's double in Friday's Division I regional semifinal at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Aviators will face Elder or St. Xavier at 11 a.m. Saturday

A warm June day was just what Vandalia Butler’s Quinton Hall wanted to wake up to Friday.

“My fastball had some life today – that warm weather helps a lot,” he said. “I love it, I love it.”

The Aviators had a lot to love to on a sunny afternoon at Day Air Ballpark. Behind Hall’s pitching and key hits at the top of the order, the Aviators defeated Mason 7-4 to advance to Saturday’s Division I regional final.

“It was a good win, but at the end of the day we’ve got a game tomorrow,” Hall said. “We’ve got work to do.”

The Aviators, ranked No. 1 in the state coaches poll, will face the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Cincinnati schools Elder and St. Xavier at 11 a.m. at Day Air. Butler’s only previous trip to the state semifinals came in 2000.

Hall said he figured his fastball was in the 86-88 mph range, maybe even 89 at times. He’s usually in the 84-86 range. Hall pitched the first 5 2/3 innings. Kaden Echeman relieved with runners at first and third in the sixth and got the final out. Hall pitched the seventh and allowed two runs.

“Not giving guys freebies, making them earn it and they hit a lot of fly balls and we made the plays in the outfield,” Butler coach Trent Dues said. “Rather than just giving them bases, challenged them and it worked out.”

Mason (24-6), however, was more generous.

Butler took advantage of two errors to score two unearned runs in the first inning. Hall reached on a fielding error to start the game, moved to second on a balk and scored on Carson Clark’s double. Clark moved to third on a ground ball and scored when the right fielder dropped Mike Masters’ fly ball.

“It makes you breathe a little easier when you get a lead like that, and they kind of helped us,” Dues said.

Mason scored in the first when freshman Jacob Hanley tripled of the right-field wall and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Butler increased its lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Clark doubled and scored on Boston Smith’s double.

Mason made it 3-2 on the fifth on Mark Rutherford’s pinch-hit double. Rutherford then chose not to advance to third on a fly ball right. On Max Johnson’s ensuing single to left, Rutherford was thrown out at home. Masters’ throw was cut off by shortstop Carson, who made a perfect throw to Smith at the plate.

“Momentum killer,” Hall said. “They get that run they’re on top of the world, so it was good to stop that and give us energy.”

Butler added four runs in the seventh with three walks, two hit batters with the bases loaded and RBI singles by Kaden Echeman and Bryce Echeman.

“We played a very sound game,” he said. “Carson, Boston, Kaden Echeman came up with some big hits, Q did an outstanding job, defense was very good, Kaden came in got that big out when we needed it. We just played sound baseball, and that’s what got us here.”