DODGE CITY, Kan. – For the 10th time in school history, Butler softball took home the Region VI Championship following an 8-5 title victory over Barton on Sunday at Legends Park.
Butler rallied from an early 5-2 deficit to score five runs – all with two outs – in the fourth inning to win its fourth consecutive Region VI title and 10th in the last 13 seasons. The four-peat occurs for just the second time in program history, as Butler won four straight region championships from 2011 to 2014.
With the region title, Butler (40-6 overall) advances to the NJCAA District E best-of-three series, which will be played at the site of the Region IX winner on May 15-16.
Butler took a 2-0 lead against Barton in the first inning behind a two-run home run to left-center by Brianna Robinson – her 16th of the season.
Barton (33-17) answered back with a three-run first inning against Grizzly starter Olivia DePew, getting a two-run infield single by Betsy Parmley and a bases-loaded walk to Maggie Schuetz.
The Cougars then added a two-run home run to center from Jayden Solberg to take a 5-2 lead.
In the top of the fourth, DePew and Jordan Carlson hit consecutive one-out singles. After a fielder's choice for the second out, Shayna Espy singled through the right-side of the infield to score Carlson.
Robinson then walked to load the bases for Taliya Talley, who hit a comebacker off the leg of Barton pitcher Tia Kohl. The Cougars could not make an out on the play, allowing Meghan Gutierrez came in to score from third base to pull Butler within a run.
Anna Icenhower then delivered a three-run single to right-center, scoring Espy, Robinson and Talley on the play for a 7-5 lead.
In the Barton fourth, Butler benefited from a misplayed pop-up by Robinson with two out. With runners on at first and second, Demi Kunkel popped up to the first-base side. With the sun in her eyes, Robinson could not make the catch, but the ball hit on the infield untouched and then rolled foul. Kunkel then grounded out to end the inning.
Butler added an insurance run on a two-out single to center by Gutierrez, scoring Carlson from second base to put the Grizzlies up 8-5.
Barton threatened again in the fifth, after putting runners on first and second with one out. However, Jaelyn Carter lined out to Butler second baseman Asia Henry, who then flipped to shortstop Jaime Barta covering second to double up pinch runner Kaleigh Peak to close the inning.
The Cougars left 11 total runners on base in the contest.
DePew (13-2) earned the win despite giving up five earned runs on eight hits through four innings. In her first relief appearance of the season, Megan Johnson received her first save as she allowed just one hit, walked two and struck out one batter in three shutout innings.
Gutierrez and Carlson both went 2-for-4 and scored twice to lead the Grizzlies offensively. Espy also had two hits, while Robinson scored two runs and drove in two on the home run.
NOTES: Butler improves to 61-7 overall vs. Barton under head coach Doug Chance. Since 2005, the Grizzlies are 9-2 all-time in Region VI play against the Cougars and have won the last five playoff meetings… With her home run, Robinson now has 40 career homers at Butler and is two back of Grizzly career leader Becca Schulte (42, 2016-17).