Butler pitches Minooka to SPC title
Indians hold off Plainfield North comeback
PLAINFIELD – This time, another Butler did it.
Minooka sophomore Joe Butler, whose older brother Jake has had three strong seasons in the starting rotation at University of St. Francis, tossed a two-hit complete game Thursday as the visiting Indians wrapped up the Southwest Prairie baseball championship with a 3-2 victory over Plainfield North.
"This may give me a little bit of the bragging rights, but he's got some, too," Butler said of his older brother. "He's been talking to some coaches and scouts. He might get drafted."
North (25-7, 17-4) got its second hit, a Kyle Strepek single, in the sixth inning, when the Tigers scored twice to cut into their 3-0 deficit. They were trailing 3-1 and had runners on second and third with one out. Butler retired Richard Bryza on a hard sacrifice fly to center fielder Mitch Vogrin, and Josh Garner on a fly to right fielder Cristian Sanchez to end the inning.
Butler threw 33 pitches in that inning, only 94 in all. He needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the seventh, and finished with three strikeouts and two walks.
"That was a tough inning," Butler said of the sixth. "But I had faith we could get out of it and still have the lead."
"Joe felt great after that sixth inning, and [Trevor] Maly was ready in case we needed him," Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. "He probably would have come in had anyone gotten on.
"Joe is just such a great athlete. When he's out there on the mound, he's so calm."
Vogrin, the ace of the Indians staff, had a good view of Butler's work from center field.
"I was watching his pitches and he was getting movement on all three," Vogrin said.
North coach John Darlington said of Butler: "He throws such a heavy fastball. He reminds of our guy, Sean Renzi, who we had a couple years ago. He throws a fastball down the middle, you hit it and it doesn't go anywhere."
The regular third baseman when he is not pitching, Butler said the game was one of the biggest he has pitched.
"As far as starting, yes," he said. "It's as big as the JCA game [for the WJOL Tournament championship, which Minooka won 1-0 in 10 innings] when I came in and pitched the last 1 2/3 innings."
Butler said he enjoys being on the mound, where "you can control the game more than you can from the field."
Minooka (24-6, 18-3) scored twice in the second inning when a great play turned bad for North. With the bases loaded on the first of two Butler singles, a walk to Jon Vesper and Tyler Paulsen's single, Vogrin hit a shot toward third against a pulled-in infield.
Third baseman Bryza made a diving stop, scrambled to his feet and fired home hoping to get a forceout. But the throw sailed high to the backstop, and two runs scored.
"That's all I was trying to do, put the ball in play there," Vogrin said. "Sometimes good things happen when you do that."
"They made a few great plays," Petrovic said of North. "That one was tough, making a great diving stop and then trying to throw."
The Indians padded the lead to 3-0 in the third when Matt Vanek, who had relieved starter Robbie Gesbocker moments earlier, committed a balk with Sanchez on third.
Thanks to sterling relief work by the sophomore Garner, who blanked Minooka over the final four innings, the Tigers hung around until the end. Garner allowed singles to Butler and Vesper leading off the sixth but he escaped, leaving the bases loaded.
"[Butler] pitched well and they made plays," Darlington said. "He didn't walk many. We walked six. In big games you have to put the ball across the plate.
"But [Garner] came in and pitched real well. He kept us in the game."