America's Newspapers
Paper: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Title: BIG BATS HAVE AVIATORS SOARING PAST THE COMPETITION
Date: May 19, 2000

VANDALIA - Kiss that baby goodbye. It's outta here.

The old team record of 25 homers at Vandalia Butler is going, going, gone. The Aviators have turned the 2000 baseball season into a Home Run Derby with 44 homers.

Catcher Adam Cox leads the barrage with 10 homers, breaking Cory Vance's mark of nine set in 1997. Vance currently is a standout pitcher for Georgia Tech.

Other sluggers tormenting opposing pitchers are Josh Betts (7 homers), Jerrod Fraley (7), Brandon Godzik (6) and Tom Hertlein (6).

They hope to continue their homer assault when they play Hamilton Badin in a Division II title game at the University of Dayton's Stuart Field at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Aviators have claimed three district Division I crowns in the last four years.

The Butler Bashers have run-ruled 11 opponents (the mercy rule is 10 runs after five innings) and averaged 10 runs en route to a 25-2 record. They have set the standard in the Greater Miami Valley Conference with five straight titles. The 25 victories tie a school record.

Soaring homer figures don't stop in the major leagues. Why the long-ball production at Butler? Several theories abound.

The home park boasts hitter-friendly dimensions of 322 feet down the lines and 350 in center. Those numbers shouldn't diminish the Aviators' homer total. Most of them are legitimate shots. They also hit four homers while sweeping a doubleheader at Coldwater's spacious park last Saturday.

The Aviators, ranked No. 3 in the final state Division II poll, hit the weights hard with a November-to-March strength training program. They also regularly use the batting tee and soft toss machines.

"The kids buy into the program," coach Trent Dues said. "Cory (Vance) set a good standard and showed the players they could win here. I don't have to motivate our players too much because they come to practice and play hard. It's a luxury for a coach to have hard-working players like I do.

"A lot of our kids are successful two- and three-sport athletes and they compete. They don't choke in critical situations."

The players are fundamentally strong in the batter's box (team batting average of .393) and feed off each others' successes. Other key hitters are outfielder Brett Salsbury (.410), shortstop Ben Neely (.424 and 35 RBIs) and second baseman Nick Ferralli (.429).

"We're an aggressive, fastball-hitting team, but we're still disciplined," said the 6-3, 205-pound Betts, who leads the team in RBIs with 36. "We don't watch too many strikes go by. We adjust to the breaking ball. Here at Butler, if you hit, you play. If you don't, you sit."

Pitching is down in the high school ranks this spring, which partly explains the long-ball heroics.

"You don't see any dominant high school pitcher like Vance who could blow the ball by you and change speeds effectively," said Betts.

Cox, the leading homer hitter and the team's catcher, says there is no better feeling than "going yard."

"It's a big adrenalin rush standing at the plate and watching the ball disappear," Cox said. "I don't go up to the plate thinking homer. I just want to make solid contact. I think our hitting takes the burden off our pitching."

* Contact Ron Jackson at (513) 743-5308 or e-mail ron_jackson@coxohio.com

Copyright, 2000, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

Author: Ron Jackson Dayton Daily News
Section: SPORTS
Page: 3D
Copyright, 2000, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.