Butler defeats Otero to clinch fourth straight national tourney bid

Butler defeats Otero to clinch fourth straight national tourney bid

The Butler softball team outlasted Otero (Colo.) 16-8 on Thursday at East Park to win the District E Championship Series, qualifying for their fourth straight trip to St. George, Utah for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.

The game was the third of the best-of-three series after the two teams split a doubleheader on Wednesday. In the winner-take-all game, the seventh-ranked Grizzlies pounded four home runs and put up 16 runs.

While the Butler offense put up big numbers, the Grizzlies had to dig out of an early hole. Otero scored a run on a pair of base hits in the first inning and then went up 2-0 following a solo home run by Jacque Solis to lead off the second inning.

Butler answered with two runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game. Alyson Bressie drove in a run with a double, then scored on an infield single by Aujanae McCoy.

The Grizzlies then took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third on a solo home run by Monica Islava. It was the first of two solo home runs for Islava in the game.

Ashton Atwell and Kate James each added three-run home runs in the game and Sydnee Eck drove in two runs with a double. Eck finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate with three RBI. Atwell's home run was her fifth in six postseason games.

Butler led by as many as 11 with a 13-2 lead in the game. Otero would get a grand slam and a two-run homer, all with two outs in the sixth inning to get as close as 13-8, but the Grizzlies scored three in the bottom of the sixth to push the lead to 16-8.

Sydnee Eck threw a scoreless seventh inning, striking out the final batter of the game to send the Grizzlies back to the national tournament.

She recorded every out of the three-game series for Butler, throwing 23.1 innings and earning two wins to make her record 29-5 on the season. She struck out 10 despite allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits.

Butler now has successfully defended its conference, regional and district championships from a year ago. The Grizzlies will find out official seeding and pairings for the national tournament on Saturday.