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.