GAINESVILLE, Texas — Butler softball suffered its first defeat of the 2018 season on Thursday, coming back from a six-run deficit only to give up a 12-9 lead in the final two innings against North Central Texas.
The Grizzlies (5-1 overall) had no problems offensively in the opening game with an 11-1 run-rule win over North Central, but fell 13-12 in the nightcap.
The loss snapped Butler's 13-game winning streak, dating back to last season's postseason run. The Grizzlies' last loss came on May 7, 2017 with a 6-5 loss to Seward County in the Region VI Tournament. Butler then won eight straight enroute to its second straight NJCAA title.
Butler will play three games on Friday at the Cowtown Classic in Fort Worth, Texas. The Grizzlies will open with an 11:00 a.m. contest against Vernon (Texas), then face Eastern Oklahoma State at 1:00 p.m. Butler will cap the day with a 5:00 p.m. game against Central Nebraska.
Game 1 - Butler 11, North Central Texas 1 (5 innings)
Butler jumped out to a 9-0 advantage after just two innings, scoring four runs in the opening frame and adding five in the second. The Grizzlies batted around the lineup in both innings.
Kenzie Young drove in the opening run with an RBI double to score Paige Pacher, then Young came home on a Brianna Robinson groundout. Butler then loaded the bases for Abi Cole, who singled to right to drive in Alexis Reed. A bases-loaded walk to Sara Mitchell then allowed Payton Reynolds to score from 3rd base.
In the second, Reynolds hit an RBI double down the left-field line to score Young, then later scored on a single up the middle by Anngie Salinas. Caylie Kifer followed with a bloop single to right field, which scored both Salinas and Cole. Butler's final run in the inning came on an infield hit by Pacher, which drove in Mitchell.
The Grizzlies scored two more runs in the top of the fifth inning on a errant throw. With Young on first base, Meghan Gutierrez hit a grounder to third, but the throw to first went up the right-field line and allowed both Young and Gutierrez to score.
Maddie Siemer improved to 3-0, throwing three innings while allowing one earned run on three hits. The sophomore struck out four batters and walked one. Both Brianna Robinson and Celina Sullivan tossed one shutout inning.
Pacher and Cole both finished with two hits, while Young led the Grizzlies with three runs scored. Butler stole six bases in the contest, with Pacher swiping two.
Game 2 - North Central Texas 13, Butler 12
Butler broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third when Caylie Kifer scored on a Payton Reynolds sacrifice fly. North Central answered by scoring a runner from 3rd when the Grizzlies were unable to turn an inning-ending double play.
In the fourth, Butler re-took the lead on a Kifer sacrifice fly to score Abi Cole from third base. The Grizzlies added another run in the inning when Shalee Brantley scored on an infield groundout, just beating the tag at home plate.
North Central exploded for six runs in the bottom of the inning, scoring five of those runs with two outs. The Lions scored the first run on an RBI single, then took a 4-3 lead when two runs scored on a throwing error. Reliever Brianna Robinson issued two walks to load the bases, then with Kaylee Burnett pitching, North Central added three more runs with a two-run double and RBI single.
Butler fell down 9-3 after North Central pushed two runs with two outs in the fifth, allowing a dropped pop-up to score a run and a bases-loaded RBI single.
The Grizzlies erased the six-run deficit with a nine-run sixth inning, beginning on a Tamarah Mascher RBI double to drive in Meghan Gutierrez. Kenzie Young added a two-run triple just inside the left-field line, then scored on a Reynolds RBI double.
With runners at the corners and one out, Alexis Reed hit a bloop single to center to score Reynolds, pulling Butler within a run. After loading the bases, Makensey Pankers drew a four-pitch walk to allow Jordan Carlson to score and tie the game.
In her second plate appearance in the inning, Mascher cleared the bases with a three-run triple to right-center to give Butler a 12-9 lead.
North Central cut Butler's lead down to one by scoring a runner from third base on a wild pitch, then getting a sacrifice fly off Maddie Siemer.
After Butler failed to score in the seventh, North Central put two runners in scoring position with no outs after a hit by pitch and single. The Lions scored a runner from third base on an infield groundout, then scored the game-winning run when Lauren Bierschenk hit a sacrifice fly to score Chelsea Luddeke from third base.
Mascher led the Grizzlies' offense by going 2-for-2 with four RBI, while Reed and Kifer also had two hits each. Young and Reynolds drove in two runs each.
Siemer was credited with her first loss of the season, giving up four runs - three earned - on just one hit in 1 1/3 innings. Starter Megan Johnson allowed five earned runs on two hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. In total, Butler pitchers combined for nine walks and hit three batters in the loss.