With a thrilling 11-10 comeback victory over Barton, the Butler softball team won the Region VI Division I championship Thursday afternoon at East Park.
Butler scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a four-run lead, then held off a late Barton rally to win its seventh Region VI title in 10 seasons.
The victory also extended the Grizzlies' consecutive winning streak to a school-record 31 games and kept Butler undefeated at home (24-0) on the season.
The Grizzlies (46-4 overall) will next host the Region IX winner for the District E Championship and a berth to the NJCAA National Tournament in St. George, Utah. Butler will play either Western Nebraska or Trinidad State (Colo.), as they play Friday and Saturday.
The best-of-three series for the District E title begins next Wednesday, with game times yet to be determined.
Against Barton, Butler trailed 7-3 after 4 1/2 innings before putting together the comeback. With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fifth, Morgan Heckart singled to center to score Morgan Bohanan and Becca Schulte. Mikayla Waggnor added a sacrifice fly to score Brynn Minor from third to put the Grizzlies within one run.
In the sixth, the Grizzlies had runners at the corners with one out when Schulte tied the game with a sacrifice fly to score Drea Lesure. Two batters later, Heckart provided the spark the Grizzlies needed by crushing a three-run home run off the left-field scoreboard to break the 7-7 tie.
After a Barton pitching change, Danae Bina doubled down the left-field line, then scored on Waggnor's single up the middle.
Barton quickly cut the deficit to 11-10 on Maddison Schofield's three-run home run to left-center field off Butler's Minor with just one out. However, Minor would record a groundout for the second out, then following a walk, struck out Brittany Wood swinging to end the game.
Butler took a 1-0 lead after one inning on Schulte's sacrifice fly to score Megan Wurts. Barton would answer with a three-run third inning to take a 3-1 lead. Jayden Gonzales drove in Schofield to tie the game, then Payton Summers added a two-run single.
The Grizzlies tied the game at 3-3 when Minor hit a two-run home run to left field, but the Cougars put another three-run inning together in the fourth. Gonazles had the big hit in the inning with a two-run single up the middle.
Barton's McKenna Mauler added a solo home run to center to give the Cougars its largest lead of the game at 7-3.
Heckart had a season-high five RBI while going 2-for-4 in the contest to lead Butler offensively. Minor went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI, while Danae Bina added three hits. Bohanan and Wurts also scored two runs each for the Grizzlies.
Minor also took the win to improve to 4-0, despite giving up two runs in two innings of work. Jennifer Hittinger was tagged for seven runs on 11 hits in just five innings, but only three runs were earned as Butler committed a season-high five errors.
NOTES: Butler is 5-1 this season in one-run games, with three of those wins coming against Barton... Despite allowing the two earned runs, Minor still leads all NJCAA Division I pitchers with a 0.79 earned-run average... Bohanan, who hit .625 (5-for-8) in three games at the Region VI tournament, ranks fifth in the nation with a .531 batting average.