Butler softball clinches spot in Sunday's Region VI title game
DODGE CITY, Kan. - Butler softball had the upper hand with a pair of aces Saturday, as the Grizzlies defeated Garden City and Hutchinson in the winner’s bracket to advance into Sunday’s Region VI championship game.
Grizzly freshman Maddie Redman had a career-high 15 strikeouts while tossing a complete game four-hitter as Butler held off a late Broncbusters rally for a 3-2 quarterfinal victory.
In the semifinal round, freshman Izzy Erickson tossed a one-hit shutout with eight strikeouts, while the Butler offense clubbed three home runs – including two from Hannah Knox – in a 9-0 five-inning run-rule win over Hutchinson.
“I would say we don’t have a No. 1,” said Butler head coach Doug Chance about his pitching staff. “We have two No. 1’s to have both come back for the championship game, it’s going to be tough for whomever comes back through the loser’s bracket twice.”
With the win over Hutchinson, Butler (46-2 overall) ran its overall winning streak to 42 games and moved into to Sunday’s championship at noon. The Grizzlies will face the winner of Hutchinson (29-16) or Barton (20-26) from the consolation bracket, which is scheduled for 10 a.m.
As the only undefeated team left in the tourney, the Grizzlies will need just one win to advance to the Plains District series, where they will host the Region IX winner on May 17-18 in a best-of-three series. The district winner will then receive an automatic bid to the NJCAA National Tournament in Yuma, Ariz., which runs from May 25-29.
Winner’s quarterfinal - Butler 3, Garden City 2
In a surprising pitcher’s duel between Grizzly freshman Maddie Redman and Garden’s Tara Reid, Butler held off a late Garden rally to move into Saturday’s semifinal against Hutchinson.
The duel was an eye-opener for the Grizzly offense, who tagged Reid for 11 runs on 13 hits in an 11-0 regular season road victory back on April 19. However, Reid did her best to keep Butler off the board, limiting the Grizzlies to just four baserunners – two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch – while striking out five through the first four innings.
On the other side, Redman struck out at least two batters in each of the first six innings – including three punchouts in both the second and sixth frames. Her previous strikeout high was 14, which came on the road at Independence on April 1. Redman’s 15 strikeouts were the most by a Grizzly since Maggie Ham, who set the school record with 17 on Feb. 19, 2013 against Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa.
“I thought it was good to see Redman go seven,” Chance said. “She was just as strong in the seventh as she was in the first. Having not pitched that many complete games because we’ve run-ruled so many people, we need to know that our kids can go the distance if we make it further down the road.”
Butler broke the tie in the fifth inning with a pair of two-out RBI singles from Madi Young and Shayna Espy. Sydney Adler scored the first run, scoring on Young’s single up the middle after hitting a two-run triple to left. Young moved into scoring position with a stolen base, then caught the Garden defense napping by advancing to home when Espy reached base on an infield single.
With a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the sixth, the Grizzlies added what proved to be a much-needed insurance run on an Anna Icenhower sacrifice fly. Hannah Knox scored the run after a one-out single and advancing to third on a stolen base and throwing error. Icenhower then flew out to left to score Knox.
“I think with the team and the aura we’ve built around this program, no matter what, I knew we were going to pull through,” Redman said. “Someone was going to start it and then we were going to keep rolling with it. I just knew that each inning I was going to have to do my job and I could trust everyone else behind me.”
Garden grabbed the momentum back in the seventh when Elycia Johnson led off with a flare single to right field. Busters cleanup hitter McKayla Encinias then clubbed a towering two-run homer to left field to pull with a run with nobody out.
However, Redman settled down to retire the final three hitters with a pair of groundouts sandwiched around a strikeout.
“I looked up to the sky and said ‘Alright, this is a test of adversity’ and I knew that God put me in a place to be tested,” said Redman. “This is where champions were made. This is where this team is going to excel. I just knew that we had zero outs and that we were looking at a good portion of the lineup that I knew my defense could get outs behind me.”
Winner’s semifinal – Butler 9, Hutchinson 0
Butler needed only two innings to put up all nine runs in the contest, as the Grizzlies benefited from early wind gusts up to 45 mph from the south and blowing directly out to right field.
“We put a lineup that I felt had a chance all the way through the lineup to get some balls in the air with the wind,” Chance said. “When that wind spun around and started coming out of the north, it wreaked havoc for (Hutch) because they misplayed some balls.”
The Grizzlies jumped on Hutch starter Samarah Bailey for four runs in the opening frame. Madi Young reached base on an infield single, then Shayna Espy laced an RBI triple to left to bring in Young. Two batters later, Ari Cordova hammered a two-run home run to right field for a 3-0 lead. Hannah Knox followed with a solo blast to center.
Butler tacked on five more runs in the second as the Grizzlies sent 10 batters to the plate. With runners at second and third and two outs, Emily Adler hit a two-run single to left to score pinch runner Sydney Adler and Shayna Espy. After Ari Cordova was plunked with a pitch, Hutch made a pitching change and brought in Miquela Guajardo.
The move did not pay off for Hutch as Knox blasted a 3-2 offering to deep center for her second home run of the game – a three-run homer and her team-high 15th of the season – which gave Butler a 9-0 lead.
Erickson (16-1) took over from there as she tossed her fourth complete game shutout of the season. The freshman has not allowed a run over the last 15 innings and has held the opposition to just eight hits and struck out 22 batters in that span.
“We’ve been using her sparingly, but she looked really good today,” Chance said of Erickson. “The fact that we saved her and not use her until Game 3 (of the tournament) and bring her in fresh when everybody else’s staff worn out is pretty clutch.”
Hutch’s best chance to get on the board came in the top of the second by putting two runners on. With two outs, Easton Head reached base on a throwing error and Kylee Dunn walked, but Erickson shut the door with an Alexis Way strikeout.
The Blue Dragons had a baserunner in each of the final three innings, yet failed to advance a runner past first base.
Knox went 2-for-3 with four RBIs while hitting two home runs in the same game for the second time this season. Mariah Wheeler and Erickson both had two hits as well. Espy, Cordova and Knox all scored two runs each in the win.
NOTES: Butler’s Region VI semifinal game against Hutchinson was the first postseason meeting between the two teams under Chance… The Grizzlies have won 12 straight Region VI tournament games. Chance’s Region VI tournament record is now 43-12 all-time, including 39-8 in Division I games… Young became the first Grizzly to score 100 runs in a single season with her run in the fifth inning against Garden City. Young remains tied with assistant coach Morgan Bohanan on Butler's single-season doubles list (30) and is one hit away from tying Kacy Covert and Brynn Minor for most hits in a season (91)… In two Region VI games, Redman is 2-0 with a 1.40 earned-run average. She has allowed just two runs on seven hits in 10 innings, along with no walks and 21 strikeouts.