Butler softball wins Region VI, advances to District E series

Butler softball wins Region VI, advances to District E series

Butler softball needed an extra game to win the Region VI Championship on Sunday, but picked up the title win in convincing fashion with a 10-0 rout of Seward County.

The top-ranked Grizzlies were the remaining undefeated team in the tournament heading into Sunday, which meant that Seward needed to win two games. Seward handed Butler its first loss of the season with a 6-5 win in the first championship game, which ended the Grizzlies' 88-game winning streak.

Butler responded in the final game with a combined no-hit shutout of Seward by pitchers Regan Mergele and Celina Sullivan, while the offense scored 10 runs on 13 hits.

The Region VI title is Butler's second straight championship and sixth in the last seven seasons. The Grizzlies have won eight overall Region VI titles (2007-08, 2011-14, and 2016-17).

With the win, the Grizzlies (51-1 overall) advance to the NJCAA District E best-of-three series against Trinidad State (Colo.). The series gets underway from Trinidad on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA National Tournament in St. George, Utah on May 17-20.

Seward County 6, Butler 5

Seward snapped Butler's winning streak using the long ball, as the Saints hit three home runs in the win - including two from Kristyna Garcia.

The Saints jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings. Seward scored the opening run when Jordan Garrison singled up the middle to score Maycee Koontz. In her next at-bat, Garrison hit a three-run home run to left field off Butler starter Maddie Siemer.

Garcia hit her first home run in the fifth inning with a solo shot to right to give Seward a 4-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Butler struggled offensively against Saints starter Monique Ashley, who tossed four shutout innings before the Grizzlies could get on the board.

Brynn Minor broke the shutout by hammering a three-run blast to left-center - her 24th of the season and tying the single-season home run record by Kate James in 2013.

In the seventh, Garcia smacked her second homer with a solo shot to left-center to put the Saints up 6-3.

Down to their final out, Butler started a late rally when Becca Schulte hit a bloop double inside the left-field line. Minor followed with a two-run home run to left field to eclipse James' record and pull the Grizzlies within a run.

After Minor's homer, Darrianne Hale forced a walk and was subbed out for pinch runner Reagan Wilson. However, Ashley was able to strike out Alexis Reed for the final out.

Minor went 2-for-5 with five RBI, while Ki'Audra Hayter and Hale had two hits each.

Siemer (3-1) took the loss, giving up four earned runs on five hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Darrianne Hale tossed the final 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and striking out one.

Butler 10, Seward County 0 

In the second championship game, Butler silenced the Saints' offense behind starter Regan Mergele, who matched a season-high mark with 10 strikeouts in five innings of work. Seward was held hitless and managed just three baserunners in the contest.

Butler broke a scoreless tie with a five-run third inning, beginning when Becca Schulte hammered a three-run homer over the left-field scoreboard. Brynn Minor followed with a double, then later scored on an infield error. Caylie Kifer added a sacrifice fly to score Darrianne Hale from third base for the final run of the inning.

In the fourth, Ki'Audra Hayter led off with a single, stole second base and scored on a throwing error. Kenzie Young then hit a double down the right-field line, then scored two batters later when Minor doubled down the left-field line.

Young scored Butler's lone run in the sixth, reaching first on a walk, stole second and then advanced to third on a fly out and scored on a throwing error back to the infield.

Butler added two more runs in the final frame. Chloe Holman hit her first home run as a Grizzly with a solo shot to right-center, then Reagan Wilson hit an RBI double to drive in Kifer to cap the scoring.

Mergele improved to 25-0 on the season, allowing just one walk and striking out 10 in five innings. Celina Sullivan threw the final two innings and fanned three batters.

Young was the top Grizzly offensively, going 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while Hayter was 2-for-3 and scored twice. Minor had three hits in the contest, including two doubles.

NOTES: Butler's loss to Seward not only snapped an 88-game winning streak, but ended a 44-game home streak and a 12-game posteason streak. Before Sunday, the Grizzlies' last loss came at Barton on March 3 of last year in a 4-2 defeat... Butler is now 10-1 overall against Seward County in Region VI tourney play under head coach Doug Chance... Schulte's three-run home run moved her into first on the Grizzly single-season RBI leaderboard, breaking Gabrielle Hart's 85 RBI season in 2008. Schulte was tied going into the contest and now has 88 runs batted in on the season, which ranks her sixth nationally... Butler continues to lead the nation in runs per game (10.9), runs batted in (530) and slugging percentage (.745). The Grizzlies also moved into first place among NJCAA D-I teams in runs scored (569). Butler ranks second in home runs (110) and on-base percentage (.487), and third in triples (28), batting average (.414)... Despite giving up 11 earned runs in four Region VI tourney games, the Grizzlies rank second in the nation in team earned-run average (1.16). Mergele leads all D-I pitchers with a 0.57 ERA, while (1.01) and Minor (1.12) are seventh and eighth, respectively.