Standing on the mound, at 5 feet 5 and 165 pounds, 12-year-old West Springfield pitcher Adam Butler is an overpowering figure in Little League baseball.
Two weeks ago against the Central Springfield All-Stars, he pitched a no-hitter, walking one and striking out 13. Last week against the Woodlawn All-Stars, Butler struggled, according to his coach, Charlie Phillips. He allowed four runs, struck out seven and walked six, but West Springfeield won the District 9 championship, 9-4, at Accotink Field in Springfield.
"Not too hot of a performance, but good enough to win," said Butler.
Offensively, he's just as impressive. In 14 at-bats in four all-star games, Butler has 10 hits, eight home runs, one triple and 13 runs batted in.
"He's a player," said Woodlawn Coach Gary Beal after Butler racked up his second postseason victory, including a two-run homer.
"He's nice and smooth and he knows the game," continued Beal. "But most of all, he's overpowering."
Woodlawn pitcher Morris Hicks thought he had Butler figured out after he got him to ground out early on a pitch low and outside. One inning later, however, Hicks fed Butler the same pitch and watched as Butler sent it over the right-center field fence.
"If you give him a good pitch, he'll knock it out," said Hicks.
As Butler walked from the mound after getting the last batter to ground out, he looked around. Hanging from the clubhouse were flags from previous West Springfield championship teams.
"No matter what happens in the state championship played yesterday -- whether or not we win or lose that game -- we've got nothing to be ashamed of because we are the district champions and that means a lot," said Butler.
"I told the kids before today's game that they had a rare opportunity before them," said Phillips. "I told them that they could win this flag and come here to Accotink Field until they are 80 and see it and say, 'I had a hand in that.' "
Butler will be able to say he had more than a hand. Relying primarily on his fastball, he burned pitch after pitch past the opposition. He retired the first four batters, three on strikeouts.
"Pitching was a really big question mark for us coming into the playoffs ," Phillips said. "I felt we were very weak. As it turns out, we had the best pitching in the district.
"It's ironic. What I thought would be a possible problem for us, turned out to be a real strength."
And that strength lies mainly with Butler. He began playing seven years ago, advancing through tee-ball and AA ball.
"I had seen my brothers Mark, 17, and Derek, 15 pitch a lot and it seemed like a lot of fun," said Butler.
"When I began, getting the ball over the plate was the toughest thing for me. I had a lot of control problems."
Practicing long hours with his father, Dan, Butler honed his skill.
"I really like pitching. It puts you in the driver's seat and you can control everything," he said. "You feel like the number of runs another team scores is completely up to you when you're on the mound."
But as well as he throws, Butler prefers hitting.
"If they pitch it over the plate, it has a good chance of going out," said Butler of his batting prowess. "The home runs are glorious, but even if I get out, I don't mind as long as I hit the ball hard. I feel I'm a much better hitter than pitcher."
An eighth grader this fall at Lake Braddock, Butler hopes to pitch for the Bruins in two years.
"I have to work on my motion, my snap and my speed. I also need to work on my control. But I think I can do it.
"I'll just keep on doing what I have been doing all along," he said, "practicing and a lot of hard work."