Butler baseball needed a come-from-behind Game 1 victory, then rolled to a 14-7 win in Game 2 for a doubleheader sweep over Seward County on Saturday at McDonald Stadium.
In the first game, the Grizzlies (22-10 overall, 14-6 conference) rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning behind a game-tying solo home run from Connor Hurst and an RBI single by Mason Goade to score Jackson Soule. Butler wasted no time in the second game, scoring seven runs in the first inning and led 12-0 after five.
With a 3-1 series win over Seward, Butler has won six of its last seven games and remains two games back of Jayhawk Conference leader Barton. The Grizzlies will step out of conference league play for a single nine-inning game at Cowley on Tuesday. First pitch from Arkansas City is at 2:00 p.m.
Game 1 - Butler 2, Seward County 1
The Grizzlies came out victorious in a tight pitcher's duel between Grizzly starter Drake Norton and Seward's Ryan Thomas, as both teams managed just three hits each after six innings.
In his first time facing Butler's lineup, Thomas retired all nine Grizzly batters he faced. Seward broke the scorless tie in the fourth inning behind a pair of singles by Cole Bergdall and Cayde Ward to lead off the inning. Bergdall would then score on an RBI groundout by Dylan Paul for a 1-0 lead.
Butler came through with its first hit of the game when Patrick Bethea led off the bottom of the fourth with a single. Bethea moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Keone Givens, then advanced to third on a Javier Pena groundout, but did not score.
Seward's best chance to add to the one-run lead came in the sixth, as the Saints put two runners on base courtesy of a walk and a throwing error. However, Norton managed to get a groundout to end the Saints' threat.
Two outs away from a loss, Butler avoided the shutout when Hurst hammered a 2-0 pitch over the right-field fence. The homer was Hurst's 14th of the season - a team-high for the Grizzlies as well as the top mark in the Jayhawk Conference.
After Soule was issued a five-pitch walk, Alex Brough hit a grounder just past Seward first baseman Ward to give the Grizzlies runners at first and second base. Seward brought in reliever Jacob Nielsen, but Goade punched a single to right-center to drive in Soule for the walk-off victory.
Throwing his fifth straight complete game, Norton (7-1) tossed a three-hitter while giving up one run, one walk and striking out six batters.
Bethea and Goade each had two hits for Butler, who finished with six hits as a team.
Game 2 - Butler 14, Seward County 7
Butler scored seven runs in the opening frame with two outs. After Seward recorded two outs to begin the inning, Saints starter Brayden Conner hit three straight batters to load the bases. Alex Brough followed with a two-run single through the left side of the infield, scoring Javier Pena and Connor Hurst.
Following a Jack Maki walk to re-load the bases, Jackson Soule scored from third base on a passed ball to give Butler a 3-0 lead. Mason Goade then reached first on an infield single which plated Brough. On the play, a throw to third base by Seward first baseman Cayde Ward in an attempt to throw out Maki was off the mark, allowing Maki to score easily.
Conner was pulled from the game after hitting his fourth batter - Tanyon Schafer - of the inning. With the top of the lineup coming to bat for the second time in the inning, Patrick Bethea added a two-run double to center, bringing in Schafer and Goade.
Butler padded its lead with a run in both the second and third inning. Pena hit a solo home run to right-center to lead off the second for an 8-0 Grizzly lead. With the bases loaded to open the third, Goade scored from third base on a errant throw from catcher Cody Koontz back to the mound.
Butler added three more runs in the fifth on a two-run single by Pena and an RBI single from Brough for a 12-0 lead.
Seward finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning on a solo home run from Benny Ayala. The Saints avoided a run-rule loss by scoring four runs the following inning, getting a two-run double by Joseph Kuhn and a two-run homer by Ayala.
The Grizzlies added two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, as Pena stole third base and scored on a throwing error, then a sacrifice fly by Brough scored Hurst.
Seward scored the final two runs of the contest on a Kuhn two-run home run in the ninth inning.
Pena led the Grizzly offense with a 3-for-4 performance, driving in three runs and scoring four runs. Goade also had a three-hit game, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Brough drove in four runs and went 2-for-4, while Bethea hit 2-for-5 with two RBI.
Butler starter James Leitch improved to 3-0 on the season, throwing seven innings and allowing five earned runs on 10 hits while striking out five. Reliever Courtland Cotton finished the game, giving up two earned runs on two hits in two innings of work.
NOTES: Butler won its first series over Seward County since 2014... As of Saturday, the Grizzlies continue to lead all NJCAA Division I teams in stolen bases with 117 thefts on the season. Butler also ranks sixth in three offensive categories (runs, 278; triples, 14; home runs, 37)... Hurst is tied for third in among NJCAA D-I hitters in home runs with 14, while Givens ranks fifth in stolen bases (26).