TRINIDAD, Colo. - Butler softball powered its way to a berth in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament with a pair of run-rule victories over Trinidad State (Colo.) in the District E Championship on Friday.
The top-ranked Grizzlies (53-1 overall) hit eight home runs and scored 36 runs in the two wins over Trinidad. Butler won 19-2 in the opener and 17-2 in the nightcap, with both games going just five innings. The 19 runs scored in the first game set a Grizzly record for most runs scored in a postseason contest (18, vs. Barton, May 3, 2008).
Butler will have a chance to defend last year's national title while making its eighth appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament. The 16-team, double-elimination tourney gets underway on Wednesday, May 17 in St. George, Utah. The Grizzlies are expected to be one of the top seeds in the tournament after leading the NJCAA polls for eight straight weeks heading into the postseason.
Butler 19, Trinidad State 2 (5 innings)
After a scoreless first inning, Butler scored three runs against the Trojans in the second. The Grizzlies opened with a Celina Sullivan single to left to score Alexis Reed. Two batters later, Paige Pacher reached first base on an infield error, which allowed Sullivan and Caylie Kifer to score.
Butler added to its lead in the third when Brynn Minor hit a ground-rule double down the left-field line to drive in Kenzie Young. Darrianne Hale followed with a three-run home run to left to put the Grizzlies up 7-0.
In the fourth, Butler loaded the bases on three consecutive singles by Pacher, Ki'Audra Hayer and Young. walked. Trinidad turned a double play getting a force-out at third and throwing home to tag out Pacher. After Minor reached on a fielder's choice to reload the bases, Hale clubbed a grand slam to left - her 21st home run of the season and second of the contest. Reed then walked to bring up Sullivan, who hammered a two-run shot to left.
Trinidad got on the board in the bottom-half of the fourth as Isabella Navarro scored from first on an Olivia Muniz single. Navarro advanced to third on a fielding error, then scored on a errant throw to third base. Muniz then scored on a Vanessa Rodarte groundout.
Butler added another six runs in the fifth, beginning when Hayter hit a leadoff triple then scored on Minor's infield single. With the bases loaded and one out, pinch hitter Chloe Holman walked to bring to Young. Sullivan then doubled to right-center to score Minor and Hale. Sullivan scored Butler's final run of the game, coming home from second when Reagan Wilson reached first on a throwing error.
Grizzly starter Regan Mergele improved to 26-0 on the season with three shutout innings, allowing just one hit, walking one and striking out seven. Sullivan tossed 1 1/3 innings of relief, giving up two unearned runs on one hit with one walk and two strikeouts. Colorado native Maddie Siemer finished the game by recording the final two outs.
Hale drove in a team season-high seven runs and scored four runs while going 2-for-3, while Sullivan was 3-for-4 with five runs batted in and three runs scored. Minor and Young scored three runs each.
Butler 17, Trinidad State 2 (5 innings)
Butler took command of the second game with a seven-run first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate and recording eight hits.
Ki'Audra Hayter led off the inning with a solo home run to right-center, then Kenzie Young doubled and scored on a Becca Schulte single. Alexis Reed and Caylie Kifer each had RBI singles to put Butler up 4-0. With the bases loaded, Hayter cleared the bases with a triple to left-center in her second at-bat of the inning.
In the second, Schulte walked and scored from first on a fielding error with Darrianne Hale batting.
Trinidad, who came into the series leading all NJCAA Division I teams in home runs, hit its only homer on the day when Katie Glaze hit a two-run shot to left in the bottom of the second.
Butler took an 11-2 lead in the third on a three-run home run by Kenzie Young. Pacher and Hayter hit consecutive singles to set up Young's homer, which was hit to right-center.
The Grizzlies added six more runs in the fourth on three homers, beginning with a solo shot to left-center by Sullivan to open the frame. Later in the inning, Schulte tied the Butler career home run mark (Kate James, 38, 2013-14) with a grand-slam shot to left field. Minor followed with a solo homer to left, increasing her single-season team record to 26 on the season.
Butler's offense was fueled by the top three hitters in the lineup as Hayter, Young and Schulte combined for 7-for-9 at the plate with eight runs scored, 12 runs batted in and five extra-base hits. Hayter was 3-for-3 with four RBI and two scored, Young went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three driven in, and Schulte hit 2-for-3 with five runs batted in and three runs scored. Minor, Sullivan and Pacher each added two hits each.
Minor (11-0) received the win by going four innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and striking out three. Hale closed the game with a perfect shutout inning in the fifth.
NOTES: Schulte and Young both moved past Megan Wurts atop the Grizzlies' single-season leaderboard in runs scored, as both now have 80 on the season. Schulte came into the day two back of Wurts' mark of 77 runs and scored five times, while Young had six runs. Hayter (76) and Minor (74) rank fourth and fifth on the single-season run list, respectively... Schulte (93) and Minor (89) now rank 1-2 in single-season RBIs... Trinidad State (117) and Butler (109) came into the series as the top two teams in home runs. The Grizzlies hit eight home runs to Trinidad's one, finishing the day tied for the NJCAA D-I lead with 118 homers... Butler hit .517 (31-for-60) in the two games, which moved the Grizzlies back into first in the nation in batting average (.418)... Along with batting average and home runs, Butler heads into nationals leading the nation in runs scored per game (11.2), RBIs (562), on-base percentage (.459) and slugging (.758). The Grizzlies have scored 605 runs this season, which ranks second... Butler's pitching staff remains second in the nation with a 1.16 earned-run average and has three pitchers in the top 10 - Mergele (0.55, 1st), Sullivan (0.99, 6th) and Minor (1.27, 10th).