ST. GEORGE, Utah – The Butler softball team is headed to the national title game after a pair of wins on Friday at the NJCAA Division I National Tournament at the Canyons Complex.
Butler beat Yavapai (Ariz.) 7-4 in the winner's bracket semifinals and then run-ruled defending national champion Chipola (Fla.) 10-0 in six innings, leaving Butler as the last undefeated team standing in the tournament.
Butler will play in the national title game on Saturday at noon local time (1 p.m. in Kansas) with the opponent to be determined. Chipola will play the winner of tonight's loser's bracket game between Yavapai and Salt Lake. The winner of that game will then have to beat Butler twice tomorrow to keep the Grizzlies from the title.
The Grizzlies improve to 52-4 on the season and have won a school-record 37 straight games. The 52 wins are the second-best in program history, trailing only the 2013 team that finished 54-4.
The softball team becomes the first women's sports team at Butler to ever appear in a national title game. Previous best finishes for women's sports teams included third place finishes by women's soccer in 2013 and 2015 and a final four appearance by softball in 2013.
This is Butler's first appearance in a national title game in any sport since football in 2012. Butler has won six national titles in football and two in men's basketball, as well as two in men's cross country and one in women's cross country.
BUTLER 7, YAVAPAI 4
Yavapai got two runs back on a homer by Andrea Soleto in the bottom of the fifth and posted another run in the sixth to cut Butler's lead to three. Regan Mergele came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, shutting down the Roughriders to preserve the Butler win.
All three Butler pitchers threw in the win. Jennifer Hittinger started and was relieved by Brynn Minor in the fourth. Minor came in with the bases loaded and struck out the first batter she faced to end the inning.
Hittinger came back into the contest, throwing the sixth inning before Mergele earned the save pitching the final inning. Hittinger gets the win, improving to 23-1 on the season.
BUTLER 10, CHIPOLA 0
Butler pitcher Regan Mergele went the distance, pitching all six innings as Butler posted its second run-rule victory of the tournament. Mergele scattered five hits and five walks while striking out two. The win improves her 24-3 on the season.
The shutout was preserved in the second inning when Megan Wurts put her glove over the top of the centerfield fence to catch a ball, robbing Chipola of a home run.
Offensively, Butler scored its first run in the second inning, when Amelia Cutchlow singled to drive in Mikayla Waggnor.
Then in the third, Butler erupted for six runs. The first two came on a deep home run to left field by Becca Schulte. It was her second home run of the day and her third of the tournament.
Later in the game, Morgan Heckart hit a 3-run home run to put Butler up 10-0.