Butler beats Chipola to claim first softball national title

Butler beats Chipola to claim first softball national title

ST. GEORGE, Utah – The Butler softball team is the 2016 NJCAA National Champions after a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over defending national champ Chipola (Fla.) in the title game played Saturday at the Canyons Complex.

The national title is the first in program history and is the 12th in Butler history (six football, two men's cross country, men's basketball and women's cross country).

Butler fell behind early on as Chipola's Madison Ragan launched a solo home run to right with two outs in the top of the first inning against Butler starter Jennifer Hittinger.

Chipola added another run in the third inning on a triple and a Butler error to take a 2-0 lead.

Hittinger would then throw three straight scoreless innings to earn the win, finishing the year with a 24-1 record.

In the fourth, Megan Wurts led off the inning with an infield single. Wurts would later advance to third and scored on a Becca Schulte single.

One inning later, Butler loaded the bases with two outs. Wurts stepped to the plate and dropped a single into centerfield, driving in two runs, with Amelia Cutchlow also scoring when the throw to the plate got away from the catcher. Wurts was thrown out at third trying to advance, but the three runs scored gave Butler the 4-2 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Hittinger allowed a leadoff single and Butler coach Doug Chance went to the bullpen, calling on closer Brynn Minor to finish the game. She struck out the first two batters she faced, then induced a ground ball to third. Danae Bina fielded the ball and threw to first, setting off a dogpile celebration in the middle of the infield.

Butler finishes the year 53-4, winners of its final 38 games. It is the longest winning streak in program history, bettering the 28 straight in 2013.

The Grizzlies won the Jayhawk Conference title with the most conference wins in its history (23-1) and then won all 10 games in postseason play, beating Dodge City once (6-0) and Barton twice (4-3, 11-10) in the Region VI tournament in El Dorado, then sweeping two games from Western Nebraska in the best-of-three District E playoffs (8-4, 9-5).

At nationals, Butler beat Howard (11-2 in six innings), Southwestern Florida State (5-4 in 15 innings), Yavapai (7-4) and then defeated Chipola twice (10-0 in six innings on Friday and 4-2 in the title game).

Butler pitcher Jennifer Hittinger was named the tournament's MVP, going 3-0 in the circle, including the win in the title game. Becca Schulte, Brynn Minor and Morgan Heckart were named to the all-tournament team and Doug Chance was honored as the top coach in the tournament.