Butler softball sweeps Independence

Randy Smith
Butler freshman catcher Tadum Soetaert is greeted at home plate by teammates Anna Icenhower (44) and McKenna Jones (10) after hitting a home run during Thursday’s 15-1 Game 1 win over Independence.

EL DORADO, Kansas—Butler softball pushed its winning streak to 37 straight games while finishing Jayhawk Conference play undefeated with a pair of run-rule wins over Independence on Thursday evening at East Park. 

The third-ranked Grizzlies (41-2 overall, 26-0 conference) defeated Independence 15-1 in five innings in the opening game, then put the final touches on a perfect conference season with an 11-3 six-inning victory. 

“I’m happy for the girls,” Butler head coach Doug Chance said about the undefeated conference mark. “It’s a big deal for them, but I’ve never really mentioned being undefeated to them because I didn’t even think about it.” 

Grizzly shortstop Madi Young set a single-season school record and tied another during the two games – with both previous marks set by current assistant coaches Kenzie Young and Morgan Bohanan.  

In the first inning of Game 1, Young scored her 91st run of the season, passing her sister for most runs scored. In the second game, Young tied Bohanan’s 2016 single-season record for doubles (30) with a two-run double in the sixth inning. 

“I don’t really pay attention to stats,” said Young, who scored three runs in the doubleheader and leads the NJCAA with 93 runs scored. “I just kind of focused on this game and being in the moment. I actually didn’t know about it until after I scored the run when Doug said ‘Hey, you just beat your sister!” 

“With Kenzie and Madi, I’ve never met two siblings who are that close,” Chance said.” They care about each other that much, but yet they love to compete against each other. I’m sure it makes it a little more special that she broke the record that her sister held and those two will be atop that list for quite a while.” 

While her assault on the Butler record books continue, Young said it’s all been positive from the coaching staff. 

“They’re very supportive and I feel like they joke with me all the time,” Young said. “Morgan’s been like “I’m gonna hold you up at first so you can’t break my record” but it’s all been fun.” 

Butler will finish regular season play Monday with a home doubleheader against Cowley, although rain is expected in the forecast. If the games are not played, Chance said the team will welcome the rest before region tournament action gets underway on Friday in Dodge City. 

“We’ve got some kids who could actually use a little bit of rest,” Chance said. “At the same time, I feel like we need to get in the weight room. Because the way the games have been stacked up this year, we haven’t been able to get into the weight room like we normally would.” 

Game 1 – Butler 15, Independence 1 (5 innings) 

The Grizzlies wasted no time to score in the opener with a five-run first inning. Madi Young led off the game with a walk, stole second and then set the school’s single-season run record with her 91st run of the year by scoring on an Emily Adler single to left. 

Mariah Wheeler added an RBI double down the left-field line to score Adler, then Anna Icenhower followed with a three-run homer to center for a 5-0 lead. 

Butler’s offensive attack continued with 10 runs in the second inning – marking the sixth time the Grizzlies have scored double-digit runs in a season. 

Young, who opened the inning with her 29th double of the season, came home on a Shayna Espy double down the left-field line. Emily Adler smacked an opposite-field double to left-center to bring in Espy, then Adler crossed the plate on a fielding error. 

Hannah Knox put Butler up 10-0 with a two-run blast to center. Still with one out in the frame, Mariah Wheeler hit a triple to center, then scored on a sacrifice fly following a walk to Icenhower. 

In her second at-bat of the inning, Tadum Soetaert cleared the left-field fence with a two-run hone run. Ari Cordova drove in the final two runs with a single to left, scoring both Alex Olson and McKenna Jones. 

Grizzly starter Maddie Redman (18-0) tossed three shutout innings, allowing just one hit, two walks and striking out three enroute to her team-best 18th win. Reliever Kelcie Kippes threw the final two innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits and fanned three hitters. 

Cordova and Icenhower each drove in three runs to lead the Butler offense. Adler, Cordova and Wheeler led the 15-hit attack with two hits each. 

Game 2 – Butler 11, Independence 3 (6 innings) 

Butler grabbed a 5-0 lead over the Pirates after three innings of play behind home runs from Hannah Knox and Ari Cordova. 

 Shayna Espy scored the first of three runs in the opening frame, as she hit a one-out double and then scored on an Emily Adler single. Two batters later, Knox hit her second home run of the doubleheader with a two-run blast to center. The homer moved Knox into the team lead for home runs with 12. 

In the Grizzly third, Cordova clubbed a two-run homer to right – her 11th homer of the year. 

Independence finally got on the board in the fourth inning when cleanup hitter Sarena Sanders hit a solo home run off Butler reliever Knox. 

The Grizzlies would grab the run back in the bottom of the fourth as Mariah Wheeler crushed a solo blast to center for a 6-1 lead. 

Butler was just inches away from ending the game in the fifth after consecutive RBI doubles from Adler and Cordova. With one out, Espy reached first on an outfield error, then scored on an Adler double to left. Cordova then hammered a ball off the top of the centerfield fence for a double. Independence managed to record the final two outs to keep from being run-ruled after five. 

With the game extended into the sixth, the Pirates took advantage with two runs – including another solo homer from Sanders. However, Butler would score three runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game. 

Icenhower led off the Butler sixth by reaching second on a dropped fly ball. Pinch runner Jaryn Benning moved to third on a groundout, then the Grizzlies placed runners at the corners after Brooke McCorkle walked. 

Young then smacked her 30th double of the season to left, which scored both Benning and pinch runner Izzy Erickson. After the throw came into the infield, Young took third base as no one covered the bag. Espy ended the game by hitting a single to left to score Young for the walk-off run-rule win. 

Cordova matched her Game 1 performance with three RBIs to lead the Grizzly offense, while Adler finished with a team-high three runs. Espy, Adler and Cordova each had two hits. 

Erickson (14-1) started the contest and pitched three shutout innings while giving up four hits and striking out four. Throwing the final three innings was Knox, who was tagged for three runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four. 

NOTES: Butler’s 37-game winning streak ranks second all-time in school history. The Grizzlies’ top streak is a college record 88 games, which was accomplished over the course of the 2016 and 2017 title seasons… Butler finishes undefeated in conference play for the fourth time under Chance… In 26 conference games, Butler won 22 of the games by run-rule… The Grizzlies have reached the 40-win mark in the last five full seasons. Butler has won at least 40 games in 11 of Chance’s 17 seasons as head coach… Butler continues to rank among the top five in numerous offensive categories – including leading the nation in runs batted in (487) and on-base percentage (.509). The Grizzlies are second in batting average (.442), runs per game (12.3), runs scored (527), doubles (127) and extra-base hits (231)… Butler’s top three hitters – Espy (.563), Adler (.557) and Young (.548) – rank in the top six in batting average among all NJCAA Division I players. The Grizzlies’ school record for batting average in a season is held by Brynn Minor, who hit .497 in 2017.