It’s been so long in fact, that even four-year starter Ryan Butler doesn’t know what postseason baseball feels like. That will all change when Butler leads the Raiders into the first round of regionals today against No. 2 seed Reno.
Butler, the team’s starting left fielder, has earned plenty of individual accolades during his three-plus years with Reed.
In his first game with the Raiders, he recorded the only hit against Douglas’ Tyler Hoelzen. He went on to start 26 of 29 games during his freshman campaign and received an all-league honorable mention recognition.
The next season, Butler led the team in hitting and was a second team all-league selection.
His junior year was by far his best. Butler batted .533, scored 38 runs, drove in 25 runs and stole 19 bases. His .815 slugging and .616 on-base percentages were also tops on the team.
This year, Butler was injured at the start of the season, but he still is leading the Raiders in hitting with a .427 batting average. He’s tied for first with two home runs. He’s scored 24 runs from the leadoff spot and has eight doubles and a triple.
However, he would trade all that individual success for his team to have a great week starting today.
“In a heartbeat. If we could win all out, it would be way better than any individual glory. That’s for sure,” Butler said.
Butler has also started on the Reed varsity soccer team the past two years, but didn’t make the playoffs as a member of that team either. At least now he knows he’s not cursed.
“I’m really excited. I’m happy we actually made it. We pulled together as a team and got it done. It took us three rough years,” Butler said. “But look at us now. It’s a new game. I think we’re actually going to do really well and surprise some people.”
Reed racked up a 9-11 mark in Northern 4A play this spring, earning the No. 7 seed for regionals. Reno was 16-4 to finish second in league. The Huskies are riding a small four-game winning streak that started with the series against the Raiders. Reed dropped its final three games of the regular season, but the Reno series was one to forget as the east Sparks school was outscored 19-2.
“You have to forget about it. It’s a new season for all the teams going in,” Reed’s acting head coach John Phenix said. “It’s wide open I think. Obviously Reno at the end of the year is playing as good as anybody. When you get them on a roll, they’re tough to beat. You just have to go out, relax and let it happen. You have to play good defense or you’re going to get beat.”
Phenix said he would be surprised if the Raiders didn’t see a familiar face on the mound for the Huskies today for the 4 p.m. first pitch. He expects Reno to throw either R.J. Bush or Vinnie Koci as they shut down Reed in 10-0 and 9-2 wins last week.
Reed will counter with junior Mark Nowaczewski.
“He didn’t throw that bad over there. We misplayed a couple balls that killed him,” Phenix said. “We still have to swing the bat. When you give them scoring opportunities, they take advantage of it. They’re very well-coached. They play the game right. They’re very intelligent for high school kids on how to play the game. I think they execute better than anyone in the league.”
Phenix is thrilled for the Raiders’ return to the postseason. He said the players really deserve it. On the top of that list has to be Butler.
“They come around once in a million. We’ve got a couple of kids like Ryan,” Phenix said. “He’s special to me because he practices hard, he plays hard and he’s always positive. I’ve never heard a negative word come out of his mouth. He’s one of the most coachable kids that I’ve been around.”
Butler recently chose to continue his playing days at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. He was also getting looks from Division I programs like St. Mary’s, Bucknell, Washington St. and Washington. But what it came down to was finding a high-class educational institution where he could also play baseball.
Butler has a 4.63 grade-point average and is ranked 21st in his class. He was named to the All-State Academic team in 2009 and 2011. Butler plans on studying business or political science in college.
Butler is well-rounded and no one has anything bad to say about him. For several years, Butler has been taking time out of his schedule to help Little Leaguers improve their skills and enjoys giving back.
“We just helped a kid on Sunday. He was really happy and smiling the whole time,” Butler said. “When he first started swinging, he was making contact and getting it to the pitcher. By the end, he was hitting balls to the fence. He was really excited. It was nice to see that.”