Butler baseball earned a doubleheader split Saturday to win the opening conference series against Dodge City, which placed the Grizzlies in a three-way tie for first place atop the Jayhawk Conference standings.
The Grizzlies (11-4 overall, 3-1 conference) took the first game by a 10-3 score behind three home runs - including a Javier Pena grand slam during a six-run fifth inning. Dodge City (8-5, 1-3) avoided the series sweep with a 16-9 win in the second game. With the series win, Butler sits tied with Garden City and Colby for first place at 3-1 in league play.
Butler will next be in action Tuesday with a 2:00 p.m. game at Northern Oklahoma-Enid, then return home for another conference series against Garden City. The Grizzlies will host Broncbusters (15-7, 3-1) for two games on Thursday, then head to Garden on Saturday to complete the four-game series.
Game 1 - Butler 10, Dodge City 3
Pena was Butler's main offensive threat in the opening game against Dodge, as he went 4-for-4 with four RBI with two doubles, a triple and a grand slam home run - leaving him a single short of the cycle.
Sophomore lefty Drake Norton (3-1) tossed a complete game allowing just one earned run on eight hits while striking out seven batters. Norton faced 34 batters and threw 120 pitches, walking five and hitting two batters. Dodge left 10 runners on base, including bases loaded in the second inning.
Dodge took a 1-0 lead after Cooper Shearon led off the second inning with a solo home run, but Butler answered back with a Cade Morrow homer to left field in the third to tie the game at 1-1.
In the fourth, Butler opened the inning with a Pena double down the left-field line, then Connor Hurst singled to center. Jackson Soule followed with a single through the right side of the infield to drive in Pena. The Grizzlies added another run on a Jack Maki groundout, allowing Hurst to score from third base.
Butler loaded the bases for Pena in the fifth behind a Garrett Chalker walk, Patrick Bethea double and a Keone Givens hit by pitch. Pena then powered a grand slam to right-center field to give the Grizzlies a 7-1 lead.
Hurst followed a monster solo blast to left field for his team-high seventh home run of the season. Butler added another run on a Mason Goade sacrifice fly to score Jackson Soule, as the Grizzlies led 9-1 after five innings.
Butler added its last run of the game in the sixth when Givens grounded out to second, allowing Bethea to score from third. Dodge's Dauson Tate hit a two-run single for the Conqs' final runs of the game in the seventh.
In addition to Pena's four-hit game, Bethea, Hurst and Soule each had two hits.
Game 2 - Dodge City 16, Butler 9
Dodge City quickly jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings - including five runs in the opening frame of Grizzly starter Dakota Rodd, who lasted just 2/3 innings.
The Grizzlies then grabbed three runs in the fourth inning to cut Dodge's lead to 7-4, scoring all the runs with two outs. With Connor Hurst at second, Jack Maki singled to center to drive in Hurst. Two batters later, Tanyon Schafer singled thtrough the right side of the infield to score Mason Goade. A fielding error on the play allowed Maki to score from first base on the play.
Dodge added three runs in the sixth, then put the game out of reach with a four-run seventh inning behind consecutive solo home runs by Tate and Garrett McGowan for a 14-4 lead.
Butler cut the lead to 14-8 with four runs, beginning when Goade scored from second base on a fielding error to allow Jacob Cox to reach first. Cox would steal second, then advanced to home on two wild pitches. Hurst then hit his eighth home run of the season on a two-run blast to center.
Jackson Soule added an RBI double to score Pena for the Grizzlies' final run of the series in the ninth.
Butler's bullpen was tagged for eight earned runs on 11 hits. Ryan Miller was the bullpen's bright spot, striking out five batters in 2 2/3 innings of work, but allowed three runs - two earned - on four hits.
Offensively, Hurst, Brough and Goade each had two hits, while Pena, Hurst and Goade scored twice in the loss.
NOTES: Butler's 3-1 start in conference play matches the Grizzlies' 2015 conference start, where they won three games in the opening series against Barton... With three straight wins to open conference play, Butler achieved the feat for the first time in eight seasons under head coach BJ McVay.