LIBERAL, Kan. — In a key conference series, Butler softball proved to be the top team in the Jayhawk Conference while handing Seward County its first two losses in league play Monday afternoon at Lady Saints Field.
Sophomore pitcher Celina Sullivan tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout while striking out a career-best 13 hitters in a 3-0 Game 1 win, then Kenzie Young powered the Grizzlies past the Saints with two home runs in an 11-5 victory in the second game.
The 11th-ranked Grizzlies (27-3 overall, 14-0 conference) extended their winning streak to 18 games while remaining in first place in the Jayhawk Conference. With the two wins over Seward, Butler took a two-game lead in the standings and ran its regular season conference winning streak to 61 games.
Butler will next host Garden City on Wednesday in a 2:00 p.m. conference doubleheader from East Park.
Game 1 - Butler 3, Seward County 0
With two of the top pitchers in NJCAA Division I facing each other, Butler's Sullivan outdueled Saints sophomore Monique Ashley in the opening game.
Sullivan (9-1) racked up eight strikeouts after three innings en-route to pitching her fourth complete game of the season. Sullivan's previous career-high in strikeouts came on March 2 this season with 12 in a 2-0 loss to Bossier Parish (La.). The sophomore recorded double-digit strikeouts for just the second time in her Grizzly career.
Meanwhile, Ashley fanned 12 Grizzly batters while taking the loss. The 12 strikeouts matched a season-high by the Grizzlies, as Butler fanned 12 times in the loss to Bossier Parish.
Kenzie Young helped Butler break a scoreless tie in the top of the third inning with a two-run home run to left field, giving the Grizzlies a 2-0 lead.
Seward's best scoring chance came in the opening frame, as the Saints loaded the bases with two outs. However, Sullivan recorded a strikeout to end the threat. After striking out the side in the second, Sullivan allowed a leadoff single and a one-out walk in the third, but managed to get all three outs with swinging strikeouts.
The Saints managed just two baserunners over the final four innings, with both being left at first base.
Brantley went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and an RBI in the win, while Young had two RBI with the home run. The Grizzlies had just four hits and three walks against Ashley, who was named the NJCAA Division I Pitcher of the Week last week.
Game 2 - Butler 11, Seward County 5
Butler took an early lead with a six-run first inning, beginning with a two-run home run to left by Kenzie Young, which extended her hitting streak to 18 games. Three batters later, Alexis Reed delivered an RBI double to score Payton Reynolds.
Seward scored its first run of the doubleheader in the bottom of the inning by getting an RBI single from Madeline Owen. Later in the inning, the Saints added two more runs when Butler second baseman Shalee Brantley was unable to catch an infield pop-up with two outs.
In Butler's second inning, the Grizzlies put the first two runners on base as Reynolds was hit with a pitch and Brianna Robinson doubled to left. One out later, Cole grounded to second to plate Reynolds for a 7-3 Grizzly lead.
After Seward scored a run on a wild pitch, Butler extended its lead with two runs each in the next two innings.
In the third, Caylie Kifer led the inning off with a walk, then advanced two bases on a Brantley sacrifice bunt. Paige Pacher scored Kifer on an groundout, then Young followed with her second home run of the game on a solo shot to left.
Brantley gave Butler an 11-3 lead in the fourth inning with a two-out, two-run double to left field with the bases loaded, scoring both Reed and Cole.
Grizzly starter Maddie Siemer (11-2) threw four innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits, walking six and striking out three batters. Megan Johnson had a solid relief performance with three shutout innings, allowing three hits and fanning one batter while earning her first save of the year.
Robinson led Butler by going 3-for-4 at the plate, while Young and Cole each had two hits and three RBI.
NOTES: During her 18-game hitting streak, Young is hitting .538 (28-of-52) with 10 home runs, 32 RBI and 29 runs scored. 18 of her 28 hits have gone for extra bases, with four doubles and four triples. With three home runs and five runs driven in during Monday's doubleheader, Young took over the team lead in both home runs (10) and RBI (39)... Butler has won seven straight games vs. Seward County in Liberal.