For the fourth time in a row and the sixth time in the past eight years, the Butler softball team is the Region VI Division I champion, as the Grizzlies hammered Seward 15-4 in the tournament championship game on Sunday afternoon at Wilkins Stadium on the Wichita State University campus.
No. 7-ranked Butler now advances to the district playoffs, which will be a best-of-three series against Region IX champion Otero (Colo.), which is 47-15. The series will be played on Butler's home field in East Park with a doubleheader starting Wednesday at 4 p.m. A third game will be played Thursday if necessary. The winner of that series advances to the NJCAA Division I World Series in St. George, Utah.
Butler (34-7) dominated the Region VI tournament, beating Barton 13-3 in five innings on Saturday and then beating Seward twice on Sunday, first by a score of 8-3 and then 15-4 in the final. The Grizzlies outscored their opponents by a combined score of 36-10 in the tournament.
In the first game Sunday, Ashton Atwell drove in five of Butler's eight runs with a pair of homers. Her first was a three-run shot to right-center in the third inning. In the seventh, she hit a two-run blast to left-center.
In the circle, Sydnee Eck pitched a complete game. She was perfect through four innings, retiring all 12 batters she faced. Eck surrendered a three-run home run in the fifth, but then finished the game with two more scoreless innings. The win improves her to 26-4 on the season.
In the championship game, Butler fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, then went scoreless in the bottom of the first. The Grizzlies still trailed going to the bottom of the second. That was when the floodgates of offense opened as Butler scored 11 runs in the inning.
The big hit in the inning was a grand slam home run to straightaway center field by Jillian Navarrete. She also doubled and drove in another run in the inning. Aujanae McCoy drove in two runs with a single up the middle, Monica Islava drove in two runs with a single to left and Sydnee Eck and Alyson Bressie also had RBIs in the inning.
Butler has now beaten Seward in the championship game in three of the past four years. The Grizzlies beat Seward 17-0 in 2011 and won 1-0 in the title game last year.