PLEASANT HILL — Sidney was on the verge of the biggest upset in the Dayton Division I sectional on Tuesday at Newton High School against Vandalia-Butler, which had won two regular-season matchups between the teams in blowout fashion.
But several miscues in the seventh cost the Yellow Jackets, who gave up two runs and lost 3-2 in a district semifinal.
While losing more closely wasn’t the team’s goal, the game was much closer than the teams’ Miami Valley League contests in regular season. The Aviators (27-2) won 9-0 on April 2 in Vandalia and followed the next day with a 10-0 victory in seven innings in Sidney.
The Yellow Jackets managed four hits in those 14 innings. They had six on Tuesday and built a 2-0 lead before Butler scored one run in the sixth and two in the seventh to earn a comeback win.
“We battle. These kids battle,” Sidney coach Thomas Goffena said. “They knew in their heads that they could win. They proved that we could have won. A couple of breaks went our way early and a couple of breaks didn’t go our way late. That’s part of baseball.
“But these kids battled. They could have folded early. They could have looked at those results of the first two games before, but they didn’t. They came out here ready to play.”
Ryan Caufield, a left-hander who didn’t pitch in either of the two regular-season contests, had a great effort on the mound. He was taken out after giving up a single on the first at-bat in the seventh and to that point had allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks while striking out four batters.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Goffena said. “He’s one of those kids that throws 73, 74 but thinks he throws about 85. He just gets the job done.”
The effort came apart in the bottom of the seventh. Josh Morris hit a line-drive single to center field off Caufield, who was removed and replaced with reliever Carson Taylor. Taylor has been the team’s best relief pitcher this year and pitched four innings while giving up one hit and striking out five in a 5-3 sectional final win over Miamisburg on Thursday.
Before Taylor even threw a pitch, Morris was able to get into scoring position. Taylor threw back to first as soon as he took the mound to try and pick off Morris, but the throw was 10 feet over Caufield’s head at first base and went into foul territory in right field.
Morris was able to move to third on the error. Dylan Hartman then hit an infield pop up for the first out, but Taylor walked Kaden Echeman on five pitches and then intentionally walked Butler star Quinton Hall to load the bases.
Taylor then hit Carson Clark on his first pitch, which tied it 2-2. Boston Smith then hit a fly out to right fielder E.J. Davis, who launched a throw to home. The throw was 10 foot over the head of catcher Donavin Johnson’s head, and Echeman easily scored for third.
“I put (Taylor) in a tough situation, but I would do it again tomorrow,” Goffena said. “I knew Caufield was running out of gas with the heat. When I looked out at him, I could tell he was about physically drained. I don’t trust anybody more than I trust Carson, so I wouldn’t be afraid to do it again if I had to.”
Sidney finishes 20-9 overall. The Yellow Jackets won the MVL Valley Division title and advanced to a third-round tournament game for the first time since 2010.
The squad will lose seven seniors to graduation: Caufield, Darrius Basil, Owen Johnson, Nick Jones, Jordan Lessing, Ryan Schloss and Ryan Strunk.
“This group of seniors is going to be sorely missed,” Goffena said. “They started a trend in Sidney. They want to play baseball. They’re not here to just play a game and get out of something else. These guys love the game of baseball, and you can see that since a couple are going on to college to play it.
“A lot of guys are going on to play summer ball, and in the past we’ve only had a couple of guys play summer ball and play 10 or 15 ACME games. Now we’ve got kids playing 40 games in the summer.
“These kids love baseball, and it showed this year.”
Echeman started on the mound for Butler. He pitched in the teams’ first regular-season matchup and gave up two hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters.
The No. 8 seed Yellow Jackets were able to hit him better on Tuesday, as they collected six hits in the first six innings when he was on the mound.
“Echeman is one of the best pitchers around,” Goffena said. “Him and Hall, they’re a one-two punch that not a lot of teams have. He’s got control early, he’s got control of his breaking ball. We knew he was going to throw strikes, so we had to come out aggressive, and we did.
“We had to get a couple of runs off him early, because we feel Echeman only gets better and better as the game goes on.”
Both of the runs Sidney scored came thanks to Butler errors.
Aiden Booth reached first base with one out in the first on an error when a grounder bounced to the edge of the field turf on Newton’s infield, hit the boundary of the outfield grass and bounced over the second baseman.
He moved to third on a single by Taylor, then scored on a double steal to put the squad ahead 1-0.
The squad added another run in the third. Basil was hit by a pitch with one out and then stole second. As he stole second, both Butler’s short stop and third baseman went over to the base to assist after the ball was lost on the turf after a throw from Echeman.
That left third base open, and Basil got up after sliding into second and raced toward third. The third baseman and shortstop sprinted back to third, and a throw from the second baseman to them on the run went by into foul territory. Basil then turned and sprinted home to push the lead to 2-0.
Sidney had two other chances spoiled by base-running mistakes.
Mitchell Davis reached second base on an error in the fifth but was picked off soon after. Davidson then hit a line-drive single to center and Basil followed with a single to right, but Davidson was thrown out at second.
E.J. Davis was hit by a pitch in the seventh by Echeman, who was then removed and replaced with Hall. Davis stole second and was looking to steal third and when Hall turned and faked a wild throw to center field while falling down and rolling. Davis started to third but Hall got up with the baseball in his glove, raced toward Davis and tagged him out.
The Aviators had just pulled within 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Boston Smith was hit by a pitch, then Caufield walked Mike Masters. Smith stole third, then Echeman drove him in on a ground out.
Butler, which was the sectional’s No. 2 seed and was ranked No. 1 in Div. I in the final state coaches association poll, finished the comeback in the seventh.
“I’m still happy with these guys,” Goffena said. “I’m not happy with the results or any of that, but I’m very proud of these guys for this effort and what they did this year.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.