GREAT BEND, Kan. - Butler softball returned to conference play Friday and recorded a pair of run-rule victories over Barton to run its consecutive winning streak to 72 games.
The top-ranked Grizzlies (34-0 overall, 10-0 conference) shut out Barton 10-0 in the opening contest, then beat the Cougars 11-1 in the second game.
Butler not only extended its school-record winning streak, but also recorded its ninth straight conference victory by run-rule and 33rd consecutive Jayhawk Conference win. Barton was the last team to defeat the Grizzlies, winning the first game of a doubleheader in Great Bend back on Feb. 3 last season.
Butler now heads to Colby for a conference doubleheader tomorrow beginning at 2:00 p.m. The Grizzlies are then scheduled to play at home against Dodge City on Wednesday, followed by Pratt on Thursday.
Game 1 - Butler 10, Barton 0 (5 innings)
Butler took a 3-0 lead after the top of the first inning behind home runs from Kenzie Young and Becca Schulte. Young clubbed a two-run homer off the left field foul pole after Ki'Audra Hayter led off the inning with an infield single, then Schulte followed with a solo shot to center for her 13th home run of the season.
The Grizzlies added three more runs in the fourth beginning with a two-run triple by Kenzie Young down the right-field line. Young would score on a Schulte single to left.
Butler added two more home runs for a three-run fifth to eventually force a run-rule victory. Hale opened the inning with a solo homer to left-center. Later in the inning, Celina Sullivan hammered a two-run blast to left-center.
Butler recorded 14 of the 15 outs by strikeout, as starter Regan Mergele set the tone with nine strikeouts in three innings pitched. Mergele (15-0) allowed just two hits, walked one and hit a batter. Sullivan struck out three batters and gave up one hit in her inning of work, then Minor closed the contest with two strikeouts and a pop-up.
Young went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBI, while Ki'Audra Hayter was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases to lead Butler. Schulte, Caylie Kifer and Hale also had two hits each for the Grizzlies, who finished with 14 hits as a team.
Game 2 - Butler 11, Barton 1 (5 innings)
Butler scored three runs in the opening inning, all with two outs. Becca Schulte started the late rally by reaching first on an infield error, then Brynn Minor doubled to right to score Schulte. Darianne Hale followed with a two-run home run to center field.
Barton got on the board with a leadoff home run to left off Butler starter Regan Mergele in the bottom-half of the inning, but the Grizzlies answered in the second with with a two-run double off the wall in right-center by Ki'Audra Hayter.
Schulte put Butler up 7-1 in the fourth with a two-run double to left, scoring Hayter and Kenzie Young.
Hale then opened the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field, then later in the inning, Hayter smacked a three-run shot to left-center to give the Grizzlies an 11-1 lead.
Hayter led Butler with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, driving in a game-high five runs and scoring twice. Hale also went 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored.
For the first time this season, Mergele started both games of a doubleheader and improved to 16-0. The sophomore went three innings, giving up one earned run on three hits while striking out five. Both Celina Sullivan and Maddie Siemer tossed one inning of shutout relief, each recording two srikeouts.
NOTES: Despite only playing four games following a March 15 sweep of Garden City, Butler still leads the NJCAA in on-base percentage (.488) and slugging percentage (.720). The Grizzlies also rank in the top five in numerous offensive categories - runs (376, 4th), home runs (68, 4th) and runs batted in (346, 4th)... In pitching, Butler ranks second in team earned-run average (0.98) and fourth in strikeouts (261). The Grizzlies lead in strikeouts per 7 innings, averaging 8.84 per game. Individually, Mergele still leads the NJCAA in both earned-run average (0.38) and strikeouts per 7 innings (11.34)... With the 10-0 Game 1 victory, Butler recorded its first shutout against Barton since March 30, 2014. Under head coach Doug Chance, Butler is 49-6 overall against Barton and has a 20-4 record against the Cougars in games played at Great Bend.