Butler Community College softball season comes to an abrupt end in NJCAA D1 Softball Championships

Randy Smith
Butler's Ari Cordova walks off the field dejected while Florida Southwestern State celebrates Beth Reid's highlight catch during the sixth inning of Thursday's semifinal at the NJCAA National Tournament.

YUMA, Arizona – The 2021 Butler softball season came to a close late Thursday evening with a 5-4 loss to Yavapai (Ariz.) in the loser’s bracket quarterfinal at the NJCAA National Tournament at the Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex. 

The Grizzlies (51-4) fell to the consolation bracket after having their 47-game winning streak snapped earlier in the day with a 2-1 quarterfinal loss to third-seeded Florida Southwestern State. 

Both one-run losses were a mirror image of each other with the Grizzlies holding a lead, only to see both opponents hit game-tying runs and scoring the eventual winning runs on errors.  

In both contests, Butler starter Maddie Redman gave way to Izzy Erickson in the circle after four innings with the Grizzlies holding one-run leads. The strategy was not only to minimize innings, but Chance felt throwing both Redman and Erickson would be a difficult 1-2 tandem against their opponents. 

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Erickson fell victim to the long ball twice. 

“(Izzy) has been effective all year,” Chance said. “She felt really good in the pen. For us to make a deep run, we thought the best advantage we’d have is to split those games up. We thought because of the contrast between their pitching styles, the movement and velocities, it would be good. It just didn’t work out.” 

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In the elimination game, Yavapai (40-6) rallied from a three-run deficit by scoring four runs in the sixth inning to stun the Grizzlies. The Roughriders received a game-tying three-run homer from Jocelyn Ulrich, then scored the eventual game-winning run when Butler centerfielder Shayna Espy dropped a fly ball with two outs. 

Redman (26-1) threw the first four innings, but returned to the circle after Erickson allowed Ulrich’s tying homer. The freshman, who finished with six strikeouts and allowed one earned run on four hits in five total innings, bookended two strikeouts around a Mikaela Payne one-out double.  

After Megan Parsley was hit with a pitch, Isabella Porreco hit a routine fly ball to center, but Espy never secured the ball and Payne came home. Butler avoided further damage by throwing out Parsley at the plate, but Yavapai reliever Emily Dix came on in the seventh to retire the Grizzlies in order and end the game. 

Butler appeared it would survive elimination after scoring two runs in the top of the sixth inning after a Madi Young leadoff single and Espy reaching on an infield error. Both runners moved over on an Emily Adler sacrifice bunt, then Ari Cordova hit a groundout to the right side of the infield. Young scored easily on the play, but Espy caught the Yavapai defense napping and slid safely into home for a 4-1 lead. 

Against Florida Southwestern, Butler nearly had a game-tying solo home run from Cordova in the top of the sixth inning, but Buccaneers left fielder Beth Reid caught the ball as her momentum carried her over the temporary netted outfield fencing. 

Chance appealed the call, but after a 10-minute delay which involved two discussions with the umpiring crew and another conversation with both the crew and tournament officials, Reid’s catch was upheld. 

“We all saw the same thing,” Chance said. “The umpires and I all agreed that (Reid) jumped in the air, caught the ball beyond the fence and landed on the other side of the fence. Since she jumped from fair territory and landed over the fence, it was still an out.” 

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“I wanted to get the interpretation right because I didn’t want to rob (Reid) of a great play, if in fact it should have been an out. I didn’t want to rob Ari of a home run, if in fact it was a home run. I just wanted to get it right.” 

Butler’s lone run of the contest came in the fourth as Young laced a ball down the left-field line past Reid for a triple. Bucs third baseman Feline Poot mishandled the throw back into the infield, allowing Young to score for a 1-0 Grizzly lead. 

Redman threw four shutout innings with six strikeouts, three hits allowed and no walks. With Redman throwing just 57 pitches and a one-run lead, Chance stood by his decision to go with Erickson in the fifth inning. 

With one out, FSW’s Eliska Stejskalova tied the game with a solo homer to left-center off Erickson. Rebeca Laudino followed with a grounder to third base, but Cordova rushed the throw and up the right-field line. The speedy Laudino raced around the bases and slid home untouched to put the Bucs in front 2-1. 

The two runs were all Florida Southwestern needed, as Butler was limited to just two hits and five baserunners total. Bucs starter Alyssa O’Donnell threw the first four innings, giving up both hits while walking two and striking out five. Emily Perrin closed the game out with three shutout innings, allowing only one walk with two strikeouts. 

While the losses eliminated the Grizzlies’ chances of a run at a national title, the 2021 squad broke numerous team and individual records while winning their 16th Jayhawk Conference title, 11th Region VI title and making their 11th trip to the national tournament – including their fifth straight trip. 

“It was a great season,” said Chance. “The main thing I stressed to the team afterwards was for those coming back, you look around at the games we lost and you see that winning a national championship is very well within reach.” 

“If we keep that in perspective and reload next year, I think we can come back and make another run.”