McVay picks up win No. 300 as Butler baseball splits with Seward County

Lionel Tipton
Butler baseball Head Coach BJ McVay picked up win No. 300 in a win over Seward County on Sunday, April 25 at McDonald Stadium in El Dorado, Kansas.

EL DORADO, Kansas — Butler found itself with a “must-win” game in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader against Seward – and not just because of the standings.

The second-place Saints, slightly ahead of the Grizzlies in the Jayhawk West standings, took the first game. However, Butler saved its best for late in the nightcap and held on for a 9-6 victory that marked coach B.J. McVay’s 300th victory.

Afterward, some of the fans held up “300” signs in the stands to signify the achievement.

The split of the four games this week keeps the standings unchanged, with just a four-game series against Pratt remaining for Butler in the division. The Saints, meanwhile, have four games left against both Pratt and Garden City to close the regular season.

“I think we’re going to have to have some help to host (a series as the second-place team in the division),” McVay said. “We’ll see; we’ve got to take care of our business. It just depends.”

It was anything but easy for the Grizzlies.

After taking a 14-9 decision in the opener, Seward quickly jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second game on home runs by Kase Johnson and Brandon Boisvert – each of whom had also homered in the opener.

Grizzlies starter Nate Adler weathered the storm and lasted seven innings – retiring the Saints in order in the second and fifth, facing four hitters in both the fourth and sixth, topping it all off by escaping a jam with just one run scoring in the seventh.

“Adler really did throw a good game, especially on a (windy) day like today,” McVay said. “He started keeping the ball down (later in the game) and mix pitches.”

Shrugging off a shaky start was the key, Adler said.

“I just had to trust my team, trust my stuff and settle in,” he said. “I think our coach trusted our bullpen, what they’re about, trust them to put the ball in their hands and get the win for us.”

Meanwhile, his teammates were picking him up and finally broke through in the sixth, scoring twice and cutting the Seward lead to 6-5.

Butler benefited from sparkling relief in the second game from Cade Phelps, who allowed just one walk and struck out two in the Seward eighth, then closer Zach Nagel recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

“When you get two ‘zeros’ (from the bullpen) on a day like today, it gives you a chance to win,” McVay said. “(Nagel’s) velocity looked better (Sunday) than it has; it was good to see.”

In the sixth, designated hitter Josh Cameron belted his league-leading 17th homer of the season, a monster opposite-field shot that landed far beyond the left-center field fence.

“He’s been doing that a lot this year,” McVay said. 

Cameron said the wind helped carry his blast out.

“It got up there in that wind, and then just kept on sailing,” he said. “Some days, you just get a ball up there, and it will fly forever.”

Catcher Noah Argenta then walked, and he came in on first baseman Sam Siegel’s opposite-field blast for an 8-6. Siegel then drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth for an insurance run, giving him three RBI in the game. 

Siegel, with two hits and a deep fly in the game, said the Grizzlies needed to scrap for whatever the wind would allow.

“Every single run matters, especially with the wind blowing out like it is,” he said.

McVay said Siegel has been slowly coming back from a shoulder injury suffered during high school and had previously been limited to pinch-hitting roles.

“We need to get some production out of first base, and he had been swinging it pretty good in (batting practice) and taking some good rounds. So it was like, ‘Let’s just figure out what he can do.’”

In addition to his tie-breaking homer, Siegel sent Saints left fielder A.J. Folds to the wall to catch his deep drive in the fourth. 

Early on, it appeared as though Seward would be the only team to take full advantage of the 26-mph wind blowing out to left field. The Saints crushed two homers in the opening game in a 16-hit attack and hit four more in the nightcap in a 10-hit attack.

Only Argenta and Tanner Leslie managed homers in the opener. Argenta’s opposite-field shot carried out to right in the fifth, and Leslie pulled his to left in the sixth. Shortstop Jonah Cox had two triples and scored twice, and Siegel doubled and singled in the opener. Argenta also singled, and he and Cox had two RBI.

Seward starter Mason Martinez held Butler to just one hit through the first three innings of the seven-inning opener, but in the fourth, the Grizzlies struck for six runs on four hits to take a 6-5 lead. Then, Seward put up two in the fourth and eight in the fifth, sending 12 men to the plate in that inning. Brady Bilek retired Seward in order in the sixth and seventh, but his mates couldn’t come back against Saints lefty Corey Didier.

Leslie continued his hot hitting in the second game, going 3 for 4. Bryce Zimmerer doubled and singled, and second baseman Cache Stone – last week’s walkoff hero in a victory over Barton – hit his second homer in as many weeks.

Thanks to Adler’s perseverance in the nightcap, the Grizzlies had just enough time to erase the deficit and take the lead, securing the milestone victory for their coach.

The Grizzlies will have a Tuesday game at home against Northern Oklahoma-Enid, then travel for a non-conference doubleheader at Labette, with the Cardinals coming to McDonald Stadium next Saturday.