Cache Stone’s walk-off home run gives Butler baseball doubleheader split
EL DORADO, Kansas—After a 13-0 first-game shellacking Sunday, Butler coach B.J. McVay was looking for something – anything – positive in the nightcap against Barton.
And, probably nothing helps to get out that bad taste more than a walkoff victory.
Sophomore second baseman Cache Stone led off the bottom of the 10th by sending a 3-1 pitch from Cougars left-hander Hunter Hesseltine over the left-center field fence for a dramatic 4-3 victory – his first homer of the season.
Stone had been hitless in four at-bats on the day with a walk before the 10th inning.
“I was just waiting to get good pitches,” he said. “My first few (at-bats), I didn’t get good pitches. But that last one, he gave me two. I missed the first one, but the second one went out.
“The second game, we needed to battle, because we knew what was on the line.”
The thrilling conclusion gave the Grizzlies (19-10, 15-9) a split of Sunday’s doubleheader and of the four-game series with Barton (23-14, 10-10).
Afterward, McVay said it was a victory Butler needed desperately.
“Our backs are kind of against the wall,” he said. “If these guys want to stay in it (the Jayhawk Conference West Division race), we had to win that (second) game. It was a must-win for us if we want to stay in the top four and try to get first or second.
“We needed that game bad.”
All of the scoring in the second game for both teams was powered by the long ball.
Barton jumped to a 2-0 lead in the third off Grizzlies starter Nate Adler when designated hitter Wade Reynolds – who also homered in the first game – hit a massive shot to center field with Alex Rodgers aboard.
Adler turned in five strong innings for Butler, giving up just the two runs on four hits, striking out six and walking just one.
The Grizzlies answered in the sixth when designated hitter Josh Cameron sent a 2-2 pitch high over the scoreboard in right field, knocking in Bryce Zimmerer, who had singled. Cameron’s homer was his team-high 13th.
“I got a good pitch to hit and put my best swing on it,” he said, “and good things happened.”
Sophomore Jackson Syring, who homered last week against Dodge City, hit a solo shot in the eighth – also off Hesseltine (1-1) –in about the same spot as last week. Like that one, this one was also into the wind, which Sunday was out of the west-northwest at 11 mph. The blast gave him eight on the season.
“I just saw it up like I did last week, and I put a good swing on it,” Syring said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Both Stone’s and Syring’s homers were into the wind, which poses a challenge.
“When those flags (atop the scoreboard) are moving that way, it will fly out of this yard,” McVay said.
But the lead would not last. Grover struck again for his third homer of the day, off lefty Zach Nagel (3-0) in the top of the ninth for a 3-3 tie, setting the stage for Stone’s heroics, which made Nagel the winning pitcher.
“They have good starting pitching,” McVay said of Barton, “and they threw really good. We just had to battle the first game. The guy (left-hander Zach Thornton) threw well, and we couldn’t get anything on him. (Butler starter Dylan) Richey gets hurt, and we had to go to the bullpen a little earlier than what we wanted. They got good swings, and they hit it.”
And hit it they did. The Cougars had five home runs in the opener, including two from sophomore first baseman Micah Grover, one of only two sophomores listed on the Barton roster. The game ended after Butler went 1-2-3 in the fifth inning after mustering just two hits off Thornton – second-inning singles by Cameron and shortstop Jonah Cox. Other than that, Thornton (4-1) faced the minimum 15 batters in the game. Richey (3-1), who left after two innings, took the loss.
By contrast, Barton’s five homers were part of a 15-hit attack in the five innings – and a three-run first that might have been worse had catcher Connor Allen not been gunned down at the plate on Grover’s single. Left fielder Bryce Zimmerer threw to Cox, who relayed to catcher Noah Argenta to nail Allen.
There won’t be long to savor this. Butler returns to action with a Tuesday afternoon game, weather permitting, at McDonald Stadium against perennially tough Cowley (28-6, 15-3) before four games against second-place Seward (18-18, 13-7), a game ahead of the third-place Grizzlies.
“They can really hit,” McVay said of Seward, “so we’re going to have to really pitch it.”
Syring said, “We’ve just got to go play our game, and we’ll reward ourselves if we play hard.
“That’s all we can ask for.”