Braxton Hyde's perfect afternoon leads Butler baseball to sweep
Since embarking on a seven-game non-conference swing last Tuesday, Butler’s baseball team has outscored its opposition, 67-23, through the first five games.
Take away the 17 runs surrendered to Northern Oklahoma-Enid in the first game of that stretch, and the 67-6 total displays an offensive dominance.
Saturday at McDonald Stadium, the Grizzlies continued their barrage, cruising to a 13-3 rout of Labette in the first game, then riding five perfect innings from freshman right-hander Braxton Hyde in the nightcap for a 14-0 decision.
“He did a great job,” Butler coach B.J. McVay said of Hyde. “I thought he was relaxed the whole time. He was throwing a little bit harder (Saturday). All four (pitchers that faced Labette in the four-game series) of them did.”
Coming off a sweep Thursday at Parsons, McVay told the team they needed to keep their focus Saturday.
“I told them that (Labette) would be a little bit upset, after getting two from them (Thursday) and run-ruling the second game (15-0, on a no-hitter by sophomore Braden Meek),” he said. “So, they’ve got to come in ready to play, and I thought they did a really good job.
“In the second game (Saturday), offensively we weren’t good for the first two innings and were kind of running ourselves out of innings when we get thrown out at third twice. But in the third inning (the offense retaliated), and when (a pitch) gets elevated, it’s probably going to leave the yard.”
After a doubleheader Monday at home against the Kansas Wesleyan junior varsity, the Grizzlies will have to shift their focus back to the all-important Jayhawk Conference West race. They are in third, one game behind second-place Seward, which holds the home-field advantage for part of the postseason that Butler covets.
Both doubleheader games Saturday were limited to seven innings, and the way the Butler bats have been going, there’s no telling how outrageous the score could have been had they lasted any longer.
In Saturday’s opener, Butler got a strong outing from sophomore Nate Adler. If not for a three-run third, Adler was in command, giving up just five hits, walking two and striking out seven.
He had plenty of support at the plate. The Grizzlies posted five-run innings in the first and third, powered by five home runs that got a boost from a south-southwest wind around 20 mph.
That wind placed many of Butler’s shots in the “no-doubt” category. Shortstop Jonah Cox hit two, Jackson Syring hit a two-run shot, and Josh Cameron went back-to-back after Syring’s blast.
Later in the inning, second baseman Cache Stone – who smashed a walkoff grand slam Tuesday for a thrilling 18-17 victory over Northern Oklahoma-Enid, his second walkoff in two weeks – sent a pitch from Cardinals starter Nate Adams over the left-field wall for an early 5-0 lead.
And that was just the first inning.
In the third, Butler strung together three walks and three doubles to put the game out of reach. Cox hit a solo shot in the second and a two-run blast in the fourth for good measure.
In the Labette fifth, third baseman Jose Aybar led off by lofting a short fly ball to center, but Syring came charging in for the running catch.
“I just make the plays the team needs me to make,” Syring said. “If the ball comes my way, they expect me to make the play, and I want to make it for them.”
He said things are coming together.
“I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time,” Syring said. “We’re all finally bought in as one, and I think we’re going to do great things this postseason.
“Nose down, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It could be they’re at the bottom or the top of our conference, we’re going to give them our best game. We’ll hold up our end, for sure.”
Syring’s catch would loom large, as Labette would load the bases with two out on two walks and a hit batsman. But Adler would get Boone Lasater to ground to third to end the game.
In the nightcap, Hyde, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Liberal, managed to retire the Cardinals in order in all five innings, striking out eight. He said he’d never had an outing this dominant.
“I have to thank my teammates for it,” Hyde said. “I knew that they would swing it (Saturday), and it’s just a great feeling.
“Our pitching is coming alive now. We’re doing really good. We’ve got a really good shot next week.”
A nine-run third inning powered the easy victory. The Grizzlies sent 12 men to the plate, and 10 of them reached safely.
In the inning, Cox singled but was later caught stealing. With two out, Syring and Cameron singled, Noah Argenta drew a walk, and first baseman Sam Siegel launched a massive drive over the center-field fence for a grand slam off Labette starter Josh Roppel. After Stone was hit by a pitch, pinch-hitter Jaren Jackson homered, and right fielder Tanner Leslie followed with a solo shot. After a pitching change, Cox then walked and came home on Bryce Zimmerer’s homer – the only one on the day to go to right field, forcing another Labette pitching change.
For Siegel, the grand slam gave him six homers on the season, among those three in the slugfest Tuesday against Northern Oklahoma-Enid.
“I just try to hit the ball hard every time I’m up there,” Siegel said. “It seems like it’s always blowing out when we’re at the ‘Mac Shack.’
“These last few conference games (against Pratt) are big, trying to get a home spot in the first round, and go from there.”
The ever-dangerous Cameron led off the Butler fourth and – sure enough – pounded a deep drive far over the center-field fence, giving him a league-leading 20 for the season.
“They all come when they come,” Cameron said of homers. “You can’t be disappointed at any of them. We like when the whole team hits them.”
Butler would score three more before the Cardinals could get out of the inning, scoring two on Cox’s double and getting the other on a passed ball.
Cox added to his league-leading stolen base total with two in the nightcap, giving him 39 for the season.
As powerful as Cameron has been, Stone is also experiencing a bit of a power surge recently. The homer Saturday gave him four on the season, and he didn’t hit his first until a solo walkoff against Barton on April 18.
“I don’t know what to say about that, I guess,” Stone said. “I just got lucky, got the right pitch. Our guys just battle at the plate to get on base. You can’t ask for more than that.”
This kind of support was more than enough for Hyde, who struck out two in the top of the fifth and finally shut off the lights.