LIBERAL, Kan. – Butler softball ended the regular season Monday with a unblemished record after a road doubleheader sweep of Seward County.
The No. 1-ranked Grizzlies (48-0 overall, 24-0 conference) took the opening game 2-0, then run-ruled the Saints 14-2 in five innings to complete the sweep.
Butler extended its overall winning streak to 86 consecutive games and becomes the first team in the Jayhawk West to win all 24 conference games. The Grizzlies have won 47 straight conference games and matched a school-record in consecutive road conference wins (21).
As the Jayhawk West champion, Butler will host the Region VI Tournament, which begins Friday with three opening-round games. The Grizzlies have a first-round bye and will play on Saturday at 11 a.m., with the opponent yet to be determined.
Game 1 – Butler 2, Seward County 0
For the third time this season, Butler played a full seven-inning contest against a Jayhawk Conference opponent. The Grizzlies struggled offensively with just four hits against the Saints.
Allison Jurgensen drove in the Grizzlies' first run with an RBI double in the second inning. With Brynn Minor on first, Jurgensen drilled a ball down the third-base line, which rolled all the way to the fence and allowed Minor to score.
Seward threatened to tie the game in the fourth inning by loading the bases with one out. However, Butler starter Regan Mergele ended the threat with consecutive strikeouts.
The Saints would get a one-out single by Taylor Kathler, who advanced to third on the play as the ball skipped past Grizzly centerfielder Kenzie Young. Maycee Koontz followed with a groundout to second baseman Ki'Audra Hayter, who fired home in time to catcher Caylie Kifer to get Kathler.
Butler added an insurance run in the sixth when Darrianne Hale crushed a solo homer to left field.
Mergele improved to 23-0 overall on the season, throwing 4 2/3 shutout innings and striking out five batters. She allowed three hits and walked three. Reliever Celina Sullivan picked up her first save by tossing the final 2 1/3 innings, giving up no hits, walking two and striking out one.
Young had two of the Grizzlies' four hits in the contest, while Hale and Jurgensen each had a hit and run driven in.
Game 2 – Butler 14, Seward County 2 (5 innings)
Two home runs in the opening inning helped Butler grab an early 3-0 lead. Ki'Audra Hayter led off with a solo homer to right. Darrianne Hale added her 19th home run of the season with a two-run blast to center.
The Grizzlies pulled away with six runs in the second, beginning with an RBI double by Paige Pacher to score Celina Sullivan. With two runners in scoring position, Hayter reached first on an infield error, which allowed both runs to score.
Butler would eventually put runners at first and second for Becca Schulte, who crushed a three-run shot down the left-field line. The home run was Butler's 100th of the season, extending the single-season school record.
Schulte would add a solo shot in the fourth – her 19th of the season – to put Butler up 10-0. The Grizzlies added three more runs in the inning behind an Allison Jurgensen RBI triple to score Reagan Wilson and a two-run triple to right from Chloe Holman to plate Jurgensen and Celina Sullivan.
Butler's final run of the contest came on a Wilson RBI single to center that scored Tamarah Mascher in the fifth inning.
Schulte was the top Grizzly offensively with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. She also scored twice and drove in four runs. Hayter, Young and Sullivan each scored two runs. Hale and Wilson had two hits each.
NOTES: Minor's 30-game hitting streak came to an end in the first game, as she went 0-for-1 with two walks… With two home runs today, Hale has hit eight homers in the last nine contests…Mergele's earned-run average dropped to 0.48 on the season, which leads all NJCAA Division I pitchers. Minor also moved back into fourth in the nation with an 0.90 ERA... Butler continues to lead the NJCAA in home runs (101), runs batted in (499), runs per game (11.1), on-base percentage (.492) and slugging percentage (.748). The Grizzlies' batting average dipped to .419 on the season, moving them down to third.