High-SchoolOhio: OHSAA

Vandalia-Butler baseball charged up for title run

March, 2, 2012
Taylore Cherry BBDanny Vega/ESPNHSButler ace Taylore Cherry is rated the nation's No. 10 RHP by ESPNHS.
This story appeared in the March 2012 issue of ESPNHS Ohio edition.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being on the receiving end of a 90-mph fastball? That same question ran through the mind of Vandalia-Butler senior Lance Straley as he prepared to catch 6-foot-9 ace Taylore Cherry (pictured) this past offseason.

“It was pretty intimidating,” says Straley. “I was thinking, ‘Just don’t get hurt.’ When I caught him as a freshman, he was throwing in the 80s. Now, on a good day he’s pumping them in at 96.”

Straley underwent Tommy John surgery as a sophomore, which sidelined him from catching the last two seasons as Cherry blossomed into an elite pro prospect. With Straley now healthy, the Aviators feature one of the state’s top batteries, and the squad appears charged up for another deep playoff run after reaching the region finals in 2011.

“I definitely think us working together will benefit the team this spring,” says Cherry. The UNC-bound hurler was key to Butler’s ascension last season, sporting a 6-1 record with a 1.38 ERA and 94 K’s.

And Cherry could be even better this spring after adding a slider to his arsenal. Joining him in the rotation are formidable senior hurlers Kyle Fain and Austin Craine.

Straley, who batted .406 in 2011, should ignite an offense that graduated its top three hitters. Senior Dan Link and juniors John Myers and Pete Yorgen are also expected to help pick up the slack on offense.

As a team, Butler went 27-4 last spring and posted three come-from-behind victories in the postseason, leading head coach Trent Dues to affectionately compare his club to boxing speed bags.

“Every time we took a punch we bounced right back,” explains Dues. “We got behind and counter-attacked.”

With Cherry bringing the heat on the mound, look for the Aviators to land some haymakers on their foes this season.

State finals preview: part one

December, 2, 2011
Who's ready for the football state finals? We certainly are. With three games each on Friday and Saturday, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Here's a look at the day one action going down this weekend.

Division V
The first title game of the weekend pits undefeated Kirtland against 11-3 Coldwater. QB Austin Bruns has been lethal using both his arm (2,652 yards, 25 TDs) and his legs (699 yards, 6 TDs) for a balanced Coldwater offense that is putting up just over 300 yards a game. The defense, led by pass-rushing specialist Mark Brunet (10 sacks), tackling machine Zach Dickman and ballhawking DB Caleb Siefring (seven INTs), is allowing just 11.5 points to opponents.

Kirtland has been a defensive juggernaut all season, allowing the Hornets to outscore opponents by a staggering 470 points this season. Kirtland has yet to allow a double-digit scorer in the playoffs and recorded a shutout in last week’s 42-0 rout of Wynford. On offense, Damon Washington and Christian Hauber have fueled a rushing attack that averages 300 yards a game and produced 56 touchdowns in 13 games.

The Hornets are in pursuit of the program’s first state crown, while Coldwater is making its third straight appearance in the finals and seventh overall. The Cavs were victorious in 2005 and 2007.

Division III
This state finals thing is becoming old hat for Cardinal Mooney. The Cardinals will play in the championship game for the 11th time in the school's storied history. This year’s squad could be dubbed the cardiac kids as six of their contest have been decided by one score, including a 24-22 playoff win over previously undefeated Steubenville. They look to knock off another unbeaten squad in Shawnee. To do so, they will need to continue to run the ball with the three-headed attack of Roosevelt Griffin (1,387 yards, 16 TDs), Justus Ellis-Moore and QB P.J. Quinn.

Shawnee lacks title experience but the squad features a stellar rushing attack and a pair of 1,000-yard backs in QB Brad Jarzab and RB Alex McCoy. The duo combined for more than 3,000 yards and 35 scores on the ground. Jarzab has also forged a strong connection with receiver Nick Hines, who has hauled in nine touchdowns. Look for Ryan Mayfield and Lucas Sparks to try and disrupt Mooney’s offense by penetrating into the Cards’ backfield.

Expect a lot of fireworks in this one as both teams are averaging more than 35 points a game.

Division II
Trotwood Madison (14-0) is the favorite in this matchup but don’t expect Avon (13-1) to go down quietly. The Eagle faithful are sure to be boisterous in trying to help the squad capture its first state crown. Justin O’ Rourke is nearing the 3,00-yard passing mark and has fired 37 touchdowns against six picks for Avon. His leading receiver is Matt Eckhardt (17 TDs) while Jacob Mullins (10 TDs) has also been a target in the red zone. Ross Douglas’ running between the tackles could be big as Avon will look to stymie the Rams’ powerful attack. Cory Furnas has been a nightmare for QBs with seven sacks while Mark Holkenborg racks up tackles in bunches.

Trotwood-Madison was a top 10 squad all fall and has hammered opponents with a dominant offensive line and a hard-hitting defense. The secondary has been nearly impenetrable with DBs Bam Bradley and Cameron Burrows leaving no room for QBs to throw and Michael McCrary has been solid in the front seven. RBs Israel Green (1,758, 21 TDs) and Ashton Jackson (17 scores) have the ability to tire out a defense on the ground while Trai Mobley and Dalin Byrd are frequent targets of QB Michael Simpson.

Good luck to everyone playing today and check back with us later for a look at Saturday’s title games.