Back-to-back national champs open season ranked No. 1

Back-to-back national champs open season ranked No. 1

Back-to-back national championships have helped the Grizzlies earn the top ranking in the 2018 preseason NJCAA Division I softball poll.

The No. 1 preseason ranking is the highest in program history. A year ago, the Grizzlies were ranked second, despite having won 38 straight games and the national title in 2016. Undeterred, Butler started the year 50-0, setting a collegiate softball record with 88 straight wins and won a second straight title, finishing the season at No. 1.

This is the fourth time Butler has been ranked in the top 10 nationally in the preseason poll. Butler was sixth in both 2014 and 2016.

Butler opens its season on Monday, Jan. 29 with a home doubleheader against Oklahoma Wesleyan JV. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at East Park.

The Grizzlies return 10 players from last year's 2017 championship squad - including three All-KJCCC first-team selections in outfielder Kenzie Young, first baseman Alexis Reed and third baseman/catcher Allison Jurgensen.

Young, who is an NJCAA D-I Preseason All-American selection by Fastpitch News, set a single-season school record last year with 90 runs scored while hitting .453 with eight home runs and 71 runs batted in. Reed hit .387 with nine home runs and 47 RBI, while Jurgensen finished with a .416 batting average, 11 home runs and 60 runs driven in.

Butler also returns second-team All-KJCCC selections in catcher Caylie Kifer (.323, 5 HR, 19 RBI) and pitcher/third baseman Celina Sullivan (7-0, 0.95 ERA, 79 K, 58.2 IP, .441 AVG, 8 HR, 25 RBI).

Butler has won seven straight Jayhawk Conference championships, and has made eight trips to the national tournament, winning two national titles and reaching the national semifinals in 2013.