VANDALIA – Springboro junior Luke Burroughs didn’t care about strikeouts. Throwing strikes and watching the defense behind him catch fly balls and field ground balls kept the game moving.
And kept the fourth-seeded Panthers moving right into a fourth straight district final with a 3-0 victory over No. 3 Butler on Tuesday.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Burroughs said. “They can hit pretty well, so don’t try to do too much, just get ground balls, and I know my defense can play.”
The Panthers (21-7) face West Clermont (21-8), a 4-3 winner over Cincinnati Oak Hills at 5 p.m. Thursday at Lakota East.
Burroughs (8-1) struck out two, walked one and allowed four hits in a complete game. He entered the game with a 0.50 ERA and struck out 63 in 56 1/3 innings. His pitch selection — fastball, curveball, changeup — didn’t matter. He threw them all for strikes.
“That’s why he’s been so good,” Springboro coach Mark Pelfrey said. “He can throw any pitch any time. He’s always around the plate, doesn’t walk people to get himself in trouble. And when people get on base he doesn’t get rattled.”
Butler coach Trent Dues witnessed all that from the third-base coaching box.
“He was just a strike thrower and they made all the plays behind him,” Dues said. “He mixes it up and he keeps you off balance, and he doesn’t throw the ball down the middle of the plate. It’s hard to square a guy up like that.”
Butler’s Jayden Watkins doubled and Alex Ables singled with one out in the seventh to finally put Burroughs in a bind. But he got Max Frye to line out to third baseman Ben Veletean who quickly threw across to first to double off Ables and end the game.
“I was just thinking those runs don’t really matter,” Burroughs said. “We’re up by three. So just keep pounding the zone.”
Panthers star shortstop A.J. Ewing hit a deep fly ball to the right-center field gap in the first inning that bounced off the glove of the right fielder and he ended up at third with a triple. Veletean got him home with a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
Alec Poole led off the fifth with a double and courtesy runner Vince Fortkamp moved to third on a bunt. After Burroughs walked, Butler starter and ace Hunter Richardson had him picked off first. But as Burroughs broke for second, Fortkamp broke for home and scored on a throwing error for a 2-0 lead.
“We got here by playing really good defense and today unfortunately that hurt us,” Dues said. “We had a good ride. Division I is tough. There’s a lot of good teams out there. Obviously you’d like to win, but just to get in these battles it’s really hard.”
Micah Brandon capped the fifth with an RBI single to make the score 3-0.
“We put some balls in the gaps when we needed to,” Ewing said. “Luke came out and showed up for us, and you couldn’t ask for anything more from him. We’ve got a lot of momentum going.”
In other Division I games: No. 2 Troy (22-7) beat No. 6 Beavercreek (17-11) 5-1 and will play south second seed Mason (25-4) at 5 on Thursday at Centerville. The Comets defeated Loveland (17-13) 5-1.
South No. 5 Lebanon (21-8) needed 10 innings to defeat Kings (19-10) 2-1 and set up a district final against Elder (21-8), a 2-1 winner over Milford (16-14), at Princeton.
Division II: Top-seeded Chaminade Julienne (24-5) slipped past No. 9 Bellefontaine 2-1. The Eagles next travel to Princeton to face Indian Hill (21-7), a 3-1 winner over Fenwick (17-12), in Thursday’s 7:30 district finals.
No. 6 Franklin (18-11) beat SWBL rival and No. 3 Bellbrook (18-11) 3-1 to set up a district final at Middletown against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a 5-4 winner over Batavia.
No. 2 Kenton Ridge (20-6) topped No. 4 Tippecanoe (17-13) 4-2. The Cougars next face south top seed Hamilton Badin (27-1), a 10-0 winner over Reading (18-7), at Arcanum.
Division IV: Troy Christian (12-10) defeated Twin Valley South (10-12) 4-0 in a game originally scheduled for Monday. The Eagles will play Bradford (20-10) on Wednesday at Houston in a district final.