No. 4 Butler run-rules Barton to move into Region VI semifinal

Butler softball players celebrate a win during the 2018 season.

DODGE CITY, Kan. — Butler softball used a key 10-run third inning enroute to an 18-7 run-rule quarterfinal win over Barton at the Region VI Division I Tournament on Saturday at Legends Park.

The fourth-ranked Grizzlies (46-4 overall, 28-0 conference), who will face second-seed Seward County in Sunday's semifinal game at 10:00 a.m., pounded out 16 hits and scored in every inning on their way to the 24th win by run-rule this season.

Sophomore Alexis Reed put Butler on the board in the opening frame with a line-drive homer to left field, which moved her into a tie for the team lead with 19 home runs.

After Barton's Morgan Michaelis hit a leadoff homer in the top of the second, Butler increased its lead in the bottom of the inning with three runs. With two outs, Caylie Kifer and Paige Pacher were issued consecutive walks, followed by an RBI single by Shalee Brantley. Brianna Robinson then hit a fly ball that was dropped by Cougars right fielder Kristin Storer, which allowed both Pacher and Brantley to come home for a Grizzly 5-1 lead.

Barton managed to load the bases in the third on a leadoff double by Nasadiya Salazar and a pair of walks, but Grizzly starter Maddie Siemer (19-2) struck out Michaelis to end the threat.

Butler then sent 16 batters to the plate, getting eight hits - including a two-run homer by freshman Kaylee Burnett. The Grizzlies had three straight RBI singles from Kifer, Pacher and Brantley - along with Kifer scoring on a wild pitch - for an 10-1 lead before Barton pulled starter Emma Horsch.

Robinson then hit an RBI single off Cougar reliever Allison Panning, who served up Burnett's first homer as a Grizzly two batters later.

The Grizzlies continued the onslaught by loading the bases on a Tamarah Mascher single and walks to Meghan Gutierrez and Makensey Pankers. Another walk to Anna Williams brought in Mascher from third base, then Nykiah Hines drove in Gutierrez and Pankers with a two-run single up the middle.

Barton did not go away quietly, as the Cougars put up six runs in the fourth. Siemer left the game after a walk and a pop-up, giving way to reliever Megan Johnson. After a strikeout for the second out, Johnson allowed seven straight batters to reach base - including four straight singles.

Up 15-7 in the bottom of the fourth, Butler tacked on three more insurance runs on a Gutierrez RBI single and a two-run single from Williams.

Burnett closed the game out for the Grizzlies with a shutout inning in the fifth after allowing two hits.

Butler had four players - Brantley, Robinson, Mascher and Hines - record two hits each, while seven different Grizzlies scored two runs each. Williams led Butler with three RBI, while Brantley, Reed, Burnett and Hines each drove in two runs.

Siemer had a solid outing as she matched teammate Celina Sullivan with her 19th victory of the season. The sophomore went 3 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits, striking out five and walking three.

If Butler defeats Seward in Sunday's semifinal, the Grizzlies will play in the championship game at 4:00 p.m. with an if-needed game to follow. Butler will be seeking their third straight Region VI title and ninth overall  in program history.

The Region VI winner will host the Region IX champion for the NJCAA District E title. The three-game District series will run May 9-10, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA National Championship on May 16-19 in St. George, Utah.

NOTES: Robinson extended her hitting streak to 13 games with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. She is hitting .625 (25-of-40) with nine home runs and 29 RBI... Reed and Robinson are tied for the team lead with 19 home runs, which ranks fifth all-time on the Grizzly single-season leaderboard... Butler improved to 34-12 in Region VI tournament play under head coach Doug Chance.