America's Newspapers
Paper: Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
Date: June 1, 2000

The Vandalia Butler Aviators are not the 1927 New York Yankees.

They just look like 'em.

The Aviators, who play Tallmadge in tomorrow's Division II state semifinals in Cooper Stadium, haven't just beaten teams on their way to a gaudy 28-2 record. They have humiliated them.

While outscoring their opponents, 293-80, Butler has reached double figures 14 times. That includes an 11-3 victory over Columbus Watterson in last week's regional finals. The Aviators have won 12 games by the 10-run mercy rule.

In the post-season, the Greater Miami Valley Conference champions outscored five tournament opponents, 45-5.

Ranked third in the state coaches poll, the Aviators are making the school's first appearance in the state semifinals.

You can bet they'll bring their bats. The team has hit 44 home runs, led by catcher Adam Cox, with 10. Third baseman Jerrod Fraley has hit seven homers, and first baseman Josh Betts is batting .506. Shortstop Ben Neely is batting .424, and outfielder Brett Salsbury is hitting .410.

Right-hander Tom Hertlein is expected to start. The 6-3 junior, who plays the outfield when not pitching, is 7-1 with a 2.50 earned run average. He has 43 strikeouts in 50 innings.

To give you an idea of how talented the Aviators are, consider they split a doubleheader with Cincinnati Moeller - winning 15-0 - and pumped top-ranked Coldwater, 14-2, in their final regular-season game. Moeller (22-6) will play St. Ignatius in a Division I semifinal, and five-time state champion Coldwater (24-3) will play Youngstown Ursuline in a Division III semifinal.

"Well, it's obvious they can hit the ball," said Tallmadge coach Don Seeker. "But we have a pretty good-hitting ball club, too."

Tallmadge also has reached double figures 14 times while compiling a 23-3 record. It has won seven times by the mercy rule and has four players batting .450 or better - pitcher-infielder Gian Testa (.500), center fielder Rick Hurst (.484), first baseman Russ Kerscher (.451) and designated hitter David Kuchensky (.450).

PIE IN THE SKY - The Tallmadge-Vandalia Butler semifinal will be broadcast live by ESPN AM/1350, beginning with the pre-game at 2:45 p.m. Veteran broadcaster Rudy Piekarski will call the play-by-play with color commentary by Jerry Laria. If the Blue Devils win, the station will carry Saturday's title game, starting at 3 p.m.

IN THE GENES - Butler coach Trent Dues, in his sixth year, is a graduate of Coldwater. Tomorrow's game also has a Mid-American Conference flavor. Dues went to Bowling Green; Seeker attended Miami and Kent State.

THE OTHER GUYS - Washington Court House (22-1) and Columbus St. Charles (21-5) meet in the other Division II semifinal, and something has to give. Neither team has ever won a semifinal game in a combined seven appearances. Court House, under first-year coach Rob Smith, lost to Rocky River in last year's semifinals and is 0-2. St. Charles is in the semifinals for the first time since 1975 and is winless in five trips.

CENTER OF ATTENTION - Unquestionably, the player drawing the most attention this weekend will be Southington's Chad Petty. Southington (24-5) plays Berlin Hiland (18-11) in a Division IV semifinal today at 3 p.m. in Bill Davis Stadium.

The senior left-hander, who threw a one-hitter at Independence in last week's regional semifinals, is regarded as the top high school prospect in Ohio by Baseball America and has hit a consistent 90 mph - and a high of 93 mph - on the radar guns of the countless number of scouts and recruiters who have timed him.

Petty, who has signed a national letter of intent with the University of Louisville, is 9-1 with a 0.71 earned run average. In 69 innings, he has allowed seven earned runs and 28 hits. He has struck out 137 and walked 27. He is 18-2 in his career.

"There hasn't been a game go by when there wasn't at least one major-league scout sitting behind the backstop," said Southington coach Tim Cope. "Every major-league team has watched him throw, and that includes the Indians. I don't think they've missed a pitch this season."

Cope said he would not be surprised if Petty turns down Louisville's scholarship offer if he is selected high in Monday's major-league draft.

"It has always been Chad's dream to play major-league baseball, so if he goes high, I think he would sign," Cope said.

Copyright 2000, 2002 The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.

Section: SPORTS
Page: 12D
Copyright 2000, 2002 The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.