ST. GEORGE, Utah — Butler softball opened its quest for a third consecutive national title with a 9-1 run-rule victory over Walters State (TN) in Wednesday's first round of the NJCAA Division I National Tournament at the Canyons Softball Complex.
Butler (51-4 overall) scored all nine runs on two-out hits to advance to Thursday's second round, where the Grizzlies will face fifth-seeded College of Southern Idaho (48-10) at 2:30 (3:30 Central) p.m.
Freshman shortstop Abi Cole led the way for the Grizzlies offensively, driving in four runs on a pair extra-base hits. Cole opened Butler's five-run first inning with a two-out double to deep center that drove in Shalee Brantley.
Celina Sullivan followed with a hard-hit single off Walters State shortstop Lexi McDowell to score both Brianna Robinson and Cole for a 3-0 Butler lead. Reagan Wilson then launched a long home run to left field to cap the first inning scoring.
In the second, Kifer led off with a single to center before Walters State recorded two outs. Consecutive walks to Robinson and Reed loaded the bases for Cole, who delivered a triple to right-center to drive in all three runs.
Walters State would get its lone run in the third on a McDowell RBI double which scored Paige Calloway.
Butler's final run came in the third inning as Kifer, Paige Pacher and Brantley hit three straight singles. With the infield drawn in, Brantley singled up the middle to drive in Kifer for the final run.
In the circle, Sullivan (22-1) threw her 10th complete game of the season, allowing just one run on three hits. The sophomore righthander issued four walks while striking out four batters.
Brantley and Kifer had two hits for Butler, who have now won 11 straight games in St. George.
NOTES: Butler improved to 17-12 all-time in NJCAA National Tournament play and is now 6-3 in NJCAA opening round games... The run-rule victory was Butler's sixth in NJCAA tourney play... Robinson had her hitting streak snapped at 17 games. She hit .620 (31-of-50) with 14 home runs, 42 RBI and 20 runs scored during that span... Butler's offense was clutch in two-out hitting, going 7-of-11 (.636).