GAINESVILLE, Texas – Butler softball opened the 2016 regular season with a pair of victories Saturday at Darwin Field on the campus of North Central Texas CC.
The sixth-ranked Grizzlies run-ruled Northeast Texas 11-3 in the opener, then scored a pair of runs late to defeat host North Central Texas 7-5.
Freshman pitcher Regan Mergele was credited with both wins, winning the opener as the starter and coming in relief in the nightcap.
Butler 11, Northeast Texas 3 (5 innings)
Butler used its speed on the basepaths and capitalized on multiple defensive mistakes by Northeast Texas in the opening win of the season.
Brynn Minor opened the scoring for Butler in the first inning with a two-run single to center. The Grizzlies added two more runs in the second, as Alexis Clinton and Megan Wurts scored on a passed ball and throwing error to the plate by Northeast catcher Sydney Hurley.
Minor added a sacrifice fly to score Becca Schulte to put Butler up 5-0 after three innings.
Butler exploded for four runs in the fourth inning, all coming with two outs. Schulte opened the late charge with a single to score Wurts, then the Grizzlies scored three runs on three separate wild pitches.
Northeast added two runs to pull within 9-3 after four innings, but Butler added two runs in the fifth – including a solo blast to left-center by Clinton.
Megan Wurts led the Grizzlies with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate with three runs scored, while
Brynn Minor was 2-for-3 with three RBI. Becca Schulte also scored three runs.
Butler dominated on the basepaths with nine total stolen bases, with Wurts leading the team with three steals.
Mergele started the contest, going four innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits. She had two strikeouts and walked one.
Butler 7, North Central Texas 5
The Grizzlies pounded out 14 hits, with the last hit coming on Alexis Clinton's double to break a 5-5 tie late to defeat the host Lions.
Butler jumped out to a 3-0 lead early against North Central Texas, with Wurts opening the scoring in the first inning on Morgan Bohanan's double. In the third inning, Minor added an RBI single, then Becca Schulte later stole third base and scored on an errant throw.
North Central answered with a three-run third, beginning with a two-run double by Jessica Molina. Rylee Hodges followed with an RBI single to score Molina.
Raven Bass opened the fourth inning with a leadoff single. Drea Lesure came in to pinch run, advancing to second a sacrifice bunt and then to third on an Alexis Clinton single. Lesure then scored when North Central tried to throw out Clinton at second on a steal attempt.
With Butler leading 4-3 in the fifth, Brynn Minor hit a one-out triple to right-center. Raven Bass followed with a double to straight-away center as North Central's Molina fell down while trying to turn to make the catch, allowing Minor to score easily.
North Central answered with a two-out rally in the sixth, tying the game with an RBI triple by Maddie Horn and a pinch-hit RBI single by Samantha Maddin off Butler starter Jennifer Hittinger. Megerle came in relief to record the final out of the inning.
Butler retook the lead in the seventh, as Minor led off with a single then Gracie Bogle reached first on a sacrifice. After consecutive pop-ups, Alexis Clinton connected on an opposite field double to left that trickled off Molly Dolezel's glove, allowing Minor and Bogle to score.
Mergele then tossed a perfect 1-2-3 inning to close out the win in relief, getting a groundout and two strikeouts.
Bohanan and Minor had three hits each to lead Butler, while Minor scored two runs.
Butler will play five games next weekend against Texas schools in the Cowtown Classic in Fort Worth, beginning with three contests on Friday. The Grizzlies will open with Weatherford at 9 a.m., then play against Alvin and Hill. Butler will finish the Classic facing Snead State and Midland on Saturday.