DODGE CITY, Kan. — For the ninth time in program history, Butler softball took home the Region VI Championship after thrashing Seward County by an 18-0 score Sunday afternoon at Legends Park.
Freshman Brianna Robinson powered the No. 4-ranked Grizzlies (48-4 overall, 28-0 conference) with a pair of home runs and drove in five runs, while sophomore pitcher Maddie Siemer threw 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball and matched a career-high with eight strikeouts.
The Grizzlies pounded out 20 hits - including four home runs and eight extra-base hits - with every starter in the lineup recording at least one hit in the contest,
In addition to winning its third straight regional title, Butler tied a school record for most runs scored in the Region VI title game (18-3, vs. Barton, 2008).
Butler advanced to Sunday's final after run-ruling Seward 9-1 in five innings during the winner's bracket semifinal earlier in the day. Sophomore pitcher Celina Sullivan not only provided the offense with two home runs with four RBI, but also dominated in the circle with a complete-game two-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
As the Region VI champion, Butler will host Region IX winner Trinidad State, Colo. (30-27) in the District E best-of-three championship series on May 9-10. The district winner will then move on to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in St. George, Utah on May 16-19. Times for the district series have yet to be announced.
Region VI Championship - Butler 18, Seward County 0
Butler wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard after Maddie Siemer struck out the side to open the title game, with Brianna Robinson smacking a two-run homer to straight-away center for a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
In the top of the fourth, Butler had 11 consecutive batters reach base - all with two outs - as the Grizzlies broke the game open with an eight-run inning for a 12-0 lead. Following a Shalee Brantley single, Robinson clubbed her team-high 22nd homer of the season and second of the game with a two-run shot to left field.
Butler then loaded the bases on an Alexis Reed single, Abi Cole double and a walk to Reagan Wilson. Payton Reynolds drove in Reed and Cole with a single through the left side of the infield. Makensey Pankers marked the ninth batter of the inning as she hit an opposite field three-run homer to right to put the Grizzlies up 11-0. Brantley capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI single up the middle to drive in Kifer.
The Grizzlies continued swinging the bats in the following inning with four runs, beginning with an RBI triple from Wilson to score Cole. Pankers followed with a sacrifice fly to right to bring in Wilson, then Kifer hit a two-run home run to left field.
With a 16-0 lead after five, Butler cleared the bench and added two more runs in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Meghan Gutierrez that scored Kaylee Burnett from third base and a Carson Solis sacrifice fly to bring home Tamarah Mascher.
Seward managed just four total baserunners in the game and failed to get a runner past second base in the contest, as Siemer (20-2) allowed a pair of walks in the second inning. The sophomore righthander retired 11 straight batters, beginning with a flyout to end the Saints' threat in the inning.
After a called strikeout to open the sixth inning, Siemer was pulled for reliever Celina Sullivan, who gave up a hit, one walk and two strikeouts while recording the final five outs of the game. Seward broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single up the middle by Kaitlin Ammerman off Sullivan in the sixth.
Kifer finished 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBI, while Pacher was 3-for-4. Along with Robinson's five-RBI performance, Pankers drove in four runs and Reynolds had two RBI and three runs scored in a 2-for-3 game. Butler had seven players with double-digit hits.
Region VI semifinal - Butler 9, Seward County 1 (5 innings)
Robinson opened the scoring for Butler with a solo home run in the first inning, then Sullivan hit the first of two home runs with a two-run blast to left-center in the second for a 3-0 Grizzly lead.
Sullivan followed up with another two-run blast to center in the third, while Reynolds added a solo homer for back-to-back jacks as Butler led 6-0 over the Saints.
In the fourth, Alexis Reed hit a two-run double down the left-field line to score Pacher and Robinson. Jordan Carlson came in to pinch run for Reed and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a Cole groundout.
Sullivan (20-1) kept Seward off-balance as seven of her 10 strikeouts were caught looking. The Saints loaded the bases on a walk and two singles in the third inning, but Sullivan recorded all three outs via strikeout.
Seward scored its only run of the contest after loading the bases again in the top of the fourth behind an infield error and two walks. Jullian Atteberry was walked with the bases loaded, which scored Leena Mortensen from third base. However, Sullivan managed to get Kaitlin Ammerman looking on a called strikeout to end the inning.
Offensively, Sullivan was 2-for-3 for four RBI, while Pacher was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases and a run scored. Cole added two runs and two stolen bases for Butler, who finished the tournament stealing nine of 10 bases.
NOTES: Robinson has now hit safely in 15 games, hitting .636 (28-for-44) with 12 home runs and 35 runs batted in. She was the top Grizzly hitter for the three-day tourney, hitting .800 (8-of-10) with five home runs, 12 RBI and seven runs scored... With her second homer in the title game, Robinson tied Darrianne Hale for fourth all-time among the Butler single-season home run leaderboard with 22. Robinson also moved into fifth in single-season RBIs with 75... Both Sullivan and Siemer recorded their 20th victories on Sunday, marking just the second time Butler has had two pitchers with 20-win seasons in the same season (Jennifer Hittinger and Regan Mergele, 24 wins each in 2016)... With 12 strikeouts in Sunday's two games, Sullivan tied Mergele for fifth all-time among single-season leaders at Butler with 196 strikeouts. As a team, Butler hit .500 (56-for-112) during the Region VI tourney, scoring 54 runs, 12 home runs and 51 RBI. The Grizzlies averaged 13.5 runs per game, slightly above the 10.8 run average this season.