Haybalers battle tested for playoffs

Davonte Butler had a home run, double and walk in the Balers' 4-0 win over Salinas Tuesday.
The Grove

With the postseason looming, San Benito High seems to be in solid standing. The Haybalers’ 4-0 win over Salinas Tuesday inched them a step closer to a Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship. They improved to 14-2 in division play, a half game up on Palma (13-2) entering their showdown on May 9.

“The focus is there,” said Balers senior Davonte Butler, who doubled, hit a home run and walked in three plate appearances. “We’re a determined group, and we’re excited for what’s to come.”

San Benito has four games remaining: at St. Francis on Friday before contests against Palma, Christopher and Valley Christian. The matchup against Palma will in effect decide the league championship. Balers ace Tyler Triano is the probable starter for that crucial contest, with Palma most likely going with Sam Stoutenborough.

Triano was fabulous as usual Tuesday, allowing just one hit over five innings before being inserted into right field to finish the game. It was another superb performance from last year’s MBL Gabilan Division Co-Pitcher of the Year. The right-hander and Cal State Monterey Bay commit kept on jamming up the Salinas hitters off his two-seamer, resulting in weakly hit balls and soft outs.

“I love playing defense behind Tyler,” Butler said. “You know almost every single pitch from him is going to be a strike, and you’re on your toes because he works fast. He doesn’t waste any time out there.”

San Benito was coming off an uncharacteristic 4-2 loss to Monterey, which sits in second to last place in the standings. The Balers committed a couple of errors that led to unearned runs. Although San Benito committed an error against Salinas, its defense was solid, with Alex Soto and Isaiah Bueno producing strong glove work.

Butler’s solo home run—a blast to left field with two outs in the third inning—was the first of his career (not counting inside-the-park home runs). Having already pitched in more innings this season than last year, Butler has become a premier two-way threat. On the home run, Butler had the green light after the Salinas pitcher fell behind in the count.

“It was 2-0 (count), and we work on that all the time in practice,” Butler said. “I got a pitch I liked, swung as hard as I could and hoped for the best.”

The Balers also received RBI doubles from Drew Williams and Triano. In three games with Salinas this season, San Benito outscored the Cowboys, 16-1.

“Tyler was so good today,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said. “The kids had good at-bats today—a lot of hard-hit balls.”

After a mid-season slump offensively, Butler honed in his swing under the tutelage of Aviles.

“Coach has been working with me on my swing, and I’ve been improving it everyday,” Butler said.

“We just got Davonte a little more balanced,” Aviles said. “He was getting a bit too tall, but he’s got such great hand-eye coordination that it was only a matter of time before he got going again. When he gets on base, things happen.”

Butler’s increased role on the mound could be the difference-maker in whether or not the Balers win their first-ever Central Coast Section playoff championship. In all likelihood, San Benito will be placed in the loaded CCS Open Division. With an upper to mid-80s fastball, curve and changeup, Butler has the potential to shut down even the best teams in the section.

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