Grizzlies softball sweeps Cowley to end regular season

Randy Smith
Butler sophomore Shayna Espy slides into third base  after hitting an RBI triple during the Grizzlies’ 8-0 Game 2 win over Cowley on Monday at East Park in El Dorado, Kansas.

EL DORADO, Kansas—Butler softball finished off its regular season Monday with a pair of home shutout victories over KJCCC Division II foe Cowley to extend their winning streak to 39 games. 

Grizzly starter Izzy Erickson struck out nine batters while hurling a complete game three-hit shutout in a 6-0 opener, then Butler (43-2 overall, 26-0 conference) completed the sweep with an 8-0 five-inning victory at East Park. 

Butler’s pitching staff of Erickson, Game 2 starter Maddie Redman and Kelcie Kippes shut down Cowley’s offense, limiting the Tigers (31-15) to just six hits in the doubleheader. 

With the regular season over, Butler will take its winning streak into the postseason, which begins with the Region VI Tournament on Friday at Dodge City’s Legends Park. The top-seeded Grizzlies will face No. 8 Dodge City (15-19, 10-14) in Friday’s opening round, with the time yet to be announced. Butler will be seeking its fifth straight Region VI title and 11th overall in the program’s history. 

The Region VI champion will then host the Region IX winner in a best-of-three Plains District series on May 17-18, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA National Tournament in Yuma, Ariz. 

Game 1 – Butler 6, Cowley 0 

Butler broke the scoreless contest in the bottom of the third inning after Emily Adler and Ari Cordova hit consecutive two-out singles. With runners at first and second, Hannah Knox punched an RBI single up the middle to score Adler. 

In the Grizzly fourth, Anna Icenhower battled through a 13-pitch at-bat with a one-out single through the left side of the infield off Tigers starter Brooke Mason. Pinch runner Jaryn Benning moved to second on a groundout, then stole third with Madi Young batting. Young followed with a triple down the left-field line to put Butler in front 2-0. 

“That was definitely a turning point,” Chance said about Icenhower’s at-bat. “(Mason) kept us off-balance, had a good change-up and really located it well. She didn’t throw real hard, but just never put a ball where you could hit it hard.” 

From there, Butler pulled away by scoring two runs each in the final two innings. Mariah Wheeler’s two-run double up the middle scored Cordova and Knox for a 4-0 lead after five innings. Espy put the finishing touches in the sixth with a two-run homer to left-center. 

Butler’s offense got a bulk of its production from its top three hitters in the lineup – Young, Espy and Adler – each going 2-for-4 with a run each. Knox and Wheeler also had two hits each. 

Erickson, who recorded her third complete-game shutout of the season, retired the first seven hitters she faced - including four via strikeout. Cowley managed only one extra-base hit and had just one runner reach third base in the contest. 

For Erickson, it was the first time she threw the full seven innings for a shutout win, as the other two came in run-rule wins against Colby (Mar. 20) and Labette (Apr. 6). 

“She went the full seven innings and had good stuff,” said Chance. “She’s been battling some tendinitis. The biggest thing on the day was not the wins, but seeing her go out there and pitch pain-free for seven innings. That means we’re going to be okay moving forward.” 

“I was pretty happy with how I performed today, especially from being off for a while and getting back into it,” Erickson said. “(Cowley) definitely is a good hitting team. They were able to put balls in play, which is something we needed to compete with before we head out to regionals.” 

Game 2 – Butler 8, Cowley 0 (5 innings) 

Butler quickly grabbed a 2-0 lead off Cowley starter Ashlynn Mercer. The Grizzlies put runners at the corners with nobody out after Madi Young led off with a single, stole second and moved to third base on a Shayna Espy single. Emily Adler then hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Young for the game’s first run. Ari Cordova followed with a single to right to bring in Espy. 

In the Butler second, Young delivered a two-out RBI single up the middle, which scored Sydney Adler for a 3-0 Grizzly advantage. 

Butler extended its lead with two runs in the third. Cordova hit a one-out single through the left side of the infield, then scored on a Hannah Knox double to left. After Mariah Wheeler hit an infield single to put runners at the corners, Sydney Adler drove in Knox on a groundout. 

The Grizzlies tacked on three runs in the fourth to secure the run-rule victory. Young led off the frame with a walk, stole second and came home on Shayna Espy’s triple to right-center. Emily Adler followed with an RBI double to left-center. After a Cowley pitching change, Cordova recovered from a foul ball off her right ankle and hit a single to left to drive in Butler’s final run. 

Cordova led the Grizzly offense by going 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Young and Espy were identical with two hits, two runs scored and one run batted in. 

Young, who has a hit in 43 of Butler’s 45 games this season, added two stolen bases to move into second place on the Grizzly single-season record book with 51 steals. 

Starter Maddie Redman (19-0) remained perfect on the season by throwing four innings, allowing two hits and striking out four. Redman lowered her earned-run average to a team-best 1.10. Kelcie Kippes finished the game with a shutout inning and gave up one hit. 

“Redman had good stuff as well,” Chance said. “She was hitting her spots and her curveball was good today. We’ve made some adjustments with how we want to throw the change and the curveball as our focal point and she’s responded well with that.” 

NOTES: Butler improved to 7-5 against Cowley under Grizzly head coach Doug Chance… Butler finishes the regular season with a perfect 20-0 home record, marking the fourth time the Grizzlies went undefeated at East Park under Chance... Cowley has not scored a run in four straight road games, as the Tigers were also shutout in last Thursday’s doubleheader at Labette… Butler ranks second among all NJCAA Division I teams in batting average (.442), on-base percentage (.508), doubles (130), runs batted in (501) and runs per game (12.0). The Grizzly school record for team batting average is .417, set during the 2017 championship season… The Grizzlies continue to have three of the nation’s best hitters in Espy (.563), Emily Adler (.555) and Young (.553). Espy and Adler rank third and fourth in average, while Young moved into a tie for fifth place… Butler’s team earned-run average dropped to 1.87 on the season, which ranks third in the NJCAA.