Butler softball advanced to the Region VI Division I Championship with a pair of victories on Saturday at East Park.
The top-ranked Grizzlies (50-0 overall) defeated Colby 9-5 in second-round action, then run-ruled Seward County 10-1 in five innings to secure a spot in Sunday's title game.
Butler extended its overall winning streak to 88 straight games and have won 44 straight home games. The Grizzlies also ran their postseason streak to 12 victories, dating back to last year's national title run.
Butler will play at 2:00 p.m. against an opponent that has yet to be determined. Garden City (18-35) and Dodge City (24-18) will play in an elimination game at 10:00 a.m. with the Garden-Dodge winner facing Seward County (41-21) at noon. The Grizzlies will then play in the title game, with a second game to follow if Butler loses.
The Region VI winner will move on to play Trinidad State (Colo.) in a best-of-three series for the NJCAA District E title beginning on Wednesday. Trinidad won the Region IX Championship with two wins over Lamar (Colo.) on Saturday.
Butler 9, Colby 5
In the third, Becca Schulte hit her 20th home run of the season with a two-run blast to left.
Colby answered with two runs off Butler starter Regan Mergele in the fourth. After Mergele opened the inning with a strikeout, the Trojans hit three straight singles to plate a run. A Katelin Eastman sacrifice fly pulled Colby within a run.
Butler pushed the margin back to three runs in the bottom of the fourth when Ki'Audra Hayter smacked a two-run home run to right-center.
Colby opened the fifth with consecutive singles by K. Withers and Slaughter. Brynn Minor then relieved Mergele in the circle, but allowed an unearned run on a groundout to make the score 5-3.
Minor led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple to right, then scored on a Darrianne Hale sacrifice fly to give the Grizzlies a 6-3 lead.
With two outs in the Colby sixth, pinch hitter Marissa Croft hit a two-run homer to left-center to cut the Trojans' deficit to one.
However, Butler would score three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, as Kenzie Young drove in Hayter on a single. Two batters later, Minor added a two-run double to left-center to plate Young and Schulte.
Minor closed the game with a 1-2-3 inning, getting two fly outs to left and a groundball to end the game.
Butler's first four hitters did most the offensive work, going a combined 7-for-12 with eight runs scored and six RBI. Schulte went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Young was 2-for-2 with three runs scored. Minor hit 2-for-3 with two RBI. Hayter scored twice and drove in two runs.
Mergele improved to 24-0 overall on the season, giving up two earned runs on six hits and striking out seven in four innings of work. Minor picked up her fifth save, allowing two earned runs on two hits in three innings.
Butler 10, Seward County 1 (5 innings)
Butler went hitless in the first two innings to start the semifinal contest against Seward, but then broke the scoreless affair with a five-run third inning.
The Grizzlies scored the opening run when Ki'Audra Hayter led off the inning with a triple, then scored on a muffed throw to first base on a Becca Schulte grounder. Brynn Minor followed with a double to left-center to score Kenzie Young and Schulte. Two batters later, Allison Jurgensen drilled a two-run home run to center field.
Seward scored its lone run in the fourth inning when Kristyna Garcia came home on an Alexis Cuellar sacrifice fly.
Butler grabbed the run back in the bottom of the frame as Hayter smacked a solo home run to center to give the Grizzlies a 6-1 lead.
Butler ended the contest by run-rule with three runs in the fifth. Minor led off the inning with a double down the left-field line, then scored on a Darrianne Hale RBI single. After Jurgensen was hit with a pitch, Alexis Reed blasted a three-run home run to right center to end the game.
Minor (10-0) tossed a complete-game three-hitter as she struck out six and walked two.
Hayter and Minor each went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Reed led the Grizzlies with three runs batted in, while Minor and Jurgensen each drove in two.
NOTES: Mergele moved into second place in career wins at Butler with 48, passing Lauren Supak (2007-08). Mergele will need six wins to match Courtney Kasson, who recorded 54 wins during the 2010-11 seasons... With two runs batted in against Colby, Schulte moved into a tie on the Grizzly single-season leaderboard with Gabrielle Hart, who drove in 85 runs during her 2008 All-American season. Minor moved into third place in single-season RBIs with 80... Schulte's home run against Colby marks the first time Butler has had two players hit 20 or more home runs in a season. Minor remains one homer from tying the single-season career mark of 24 home runs set by Kate James in 2013. Schulte is now two back of James' career mark of 38 home runs... Butler ranks second in the NJCAA in home runs with 106, just three behind Region IX winner Trinidad State. The Grizzlies moved back into the lead in runs batted in (517) and continue to lead the nation in runs per game (11.1), on-base percentage (.490) and slugging (.749). Butler ranks second in batting average (.419), third in triples (28) and fourth in runs scored (554).