ST. GEORGE, Utah – After two days, Butler softball remains one of four teams undefeated at the 2017 NJCAA Division I National Tournament and will play in today's quarterfinal round against No. 5 Central Arizona at 1:00 p.m. CST.
The top-seeded Grizzlies (55-1) won their second round contest Thursday with a 15-3 run-rule win over Howard, Texas. Butler hit seven home runs in the contest - including three from sophomore Becca Schulte, which tied an NJCAA tournament record. Central Arizona (52-9) defeated Chipola, Fla., 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
This will be the first meeting between Butler and Central Arizona under Grizzly head coach Doug Chance.
Butler would advance to tonight's semifinal round with a win, where they would play the winner of No. 2 Salt Lake, Utah (51-6) or No. 11 Lakeland, IL (56-12) at 6:00 p.m. CST. With a loss, the Grizzlies would turn around and play at 3:30 p.m. CST in an elimination game against either No. 3 Florida Southwestern State (62-6) or No. 7 San Jacinto-South, Texas (43-20).
With a school-record 55 wins, Butler has one of the top offenses in the country as the Grizzlies currently lead the nation in batting average (.418), home runs (125), runs batted in (584), runs scored per game (11.2), runs scored (629), extra base hits (267), total bases (1,208), on-base percentage (.492) and slugging percentage (.764).
The Grizzlies have three players (sophomore OF/P Brynn Minor, 26, 3rd; sophomore SS Becca Schulte, 25, t4th; sophomore UTL/P Darrianne Hale, 22, t8th) who are ranked in the NJCAA top 10 in home runs, while Schulte is second (104) and Minor ranks seventh (89) in runs batted in. Sophomore Kenzie Young is fourth in runs scored (85), while Schulte is tied for fifth (84).
Butler also have one of the nation's top pitching staffs with a 1.19 earned-run average and a .186 batting average against, both which rank second among NJCAA D-I teams. Butler leads all teams in strikeouts per 7 innings (8.36) and has 393 strikeouts on the season, which ranks third. Sophomore P Regan Mergele (27-0, 0.59, 189 Ks, 119 1/3 IP) ranks first among all NJCAA D-I pitchers in earned-run average, while freshman 3B/P Celina Sullivan (7-0, 0.97, 79 Ks, 57 2/3 IP) and Minor (12-0, 1.21, 67 Ks, 69 1/3 IP) are fifth and eighth in ERA, respectively.
Central Arizona is hitting .373 (19th) with 51 home runs (31st), 428 runs batted in (14th) and is averaging 8.0 runs per game. The Vaqueras are led offensively by freshman 3B/1B Brittany Holland, who is hitting .478 with 15 home runs, 81 runs batted in and 21 doubles - all team-high marks. Other players to watch are sophomore OF Brianna Moeller (.440, 12 HRs, 79 RBI, 81 runs, 17 doubles, 11 triples, 22 stolen bases), sophomore OF Lindsey Smith (.381, 10 HRs, 49 RBI, 17 doubles, 19 stolen bases) and freshman OF Ashleigh Withers (.389, 1 HR, 41 RBI, 78 runs, 34 stolen bases).
The Vaqueras' pitching staff has a 3.13 earned-run avearage (56th) with 250 strikeouts (36th), while opponents are hitting .268 (25th) against them. Freshman Kyrstan Garcia (29-4, 2.99 ERA, 127 Ks, 175 1/3 IP) and sophomore Devin Hally (18-4, 2.63 ERA, 93 Ks, 141 IP) lead the staff.
Shelby Davis is in her second season as head coach at Central Arizona, where she is 78-41 overall. A member of the Vaqueras' 2005 national title team, Davis previously was the head coach at Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College.
Central Arizona has won 12 NJCAA national championships, with the last title coming in 2005. The Vaqueras won seven of nine titles from 1984-1992, including five straight (1988-1992). This is Central Arizona's first trip to the national tournament since winning the championship in 2005.
Gameday links for Friday's contest:
LIVE STATS: http://butlergrizzlies.com/sports/sball/2016-17/boxscores/20170519_xuvo.xml
IN-GAME UPDATES: http://www.twitter.com/butlergrizzlies
NOTES: Butler has won seven straight national tournament games. The Grizzlies are 13-12 all-time in NJCAA D-I Tournament play... Under head coach Doug Chance, Butler is 1-1 against Howard... Butler and Central Arizona faced two common opponents - Seward County and Howard (TX) this season. The Grizzlies went 7-1, while Central Arizona was 3-1.
|vs. Seward County||Apr. 17||W, 10-2 (5)
W, 10-1 (5)
|vs. Howard (TX)||Mar. 10||
|at Seward County||Apr. 24
W, 14-2 (5)
|vs. Seward County||Mar. 17||
W, 13-2 (5)
|vs. Seward County||May 6||W, 10-1 (5)|
|vs. Seward County||May 7||L, 6-5
|vs. Howard (TX)||May 18||W, 15-3 (5)|