Butler baseball rallied from a two-run deficit to hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun Neosho County 4-3 in Game 1 of the Region VI opening round best-of-three playoff series Friday night at McDonald Stadium.
The Grizzlies (38-17 overall) trailed 3-1 with two outs in the ninth when Patrick Bethea drew a two-out walk to extend the game. On the very next pitch, Joshua Cox hit a line drive over the right-field fence to tie the game.
Javier Pena then followed by launching the first pitch he saw high and deep to straightaway center to end the game.
With the win, Butler takes a 1-0 lead in the series, and can advance to the Region VI eight-team double-elimination tournament with a win in Game 2 at 1:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. If Neosho (31-26) wins, the two teams will play a deciding third game immediately following. The opening-round winner will face Barton on Wednesday at Wichita State University's Eck Stadium at 10:00 a.m.
Butler trailed the entire game on Friday until the final heroics. Starter Zach Bravo walked three batters in the first inning and allowed a pair of hits. Neosho would score two runs off of Bravo's miscues - one on a sacrifice fly to left and the second on a bases-loaded walk.
Bravo settled in and threw four scoreless innings in a row, before allowing another Neosho run on a single and a double in the top of the sixth as the Panthers took a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies' offense struggled to get on the scoreboard despite getting hits off Neosho starter Cam Blazek, yet could not get a runner past second base.
Blake Rohm came in to relieve Bravo to start the seventh, and went on to throw three scoreless innings to earn the victory on the mound.
Butler finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth when Colby Standard singled up the middle to Pena from second. Neosho closer Alex DeBey then came on to get the final two outs of the inning.
In the ninth, DeBey retired the first two Butler batters on groundouts. He was one out away from his seventh save of the season when he walked Bethea, setting the stage for the Cox and Pena homers.