DODGE CITY, Kan. – Butler softball opened Region VI tournament play with a 14-5 run-rule victory over Garden City in Friday's first round at Legends Park.
The win moves the 12th-ranked Grizzlies (37-6 overall) into Saturday's second round against third-seeded Dodge City (22-15) at 11:00 a.m. Dodge defeated Hutchinson 12-4 in five innings in the opening round.
Against Garden, Butler broke a scoreless tie with a five-run second inning to take control of the contest. With one out, Makensey Pankers hit an infield single, Jordan Carlson walked and Jaime Barta singled to left to load the bases.
With the bases still loaded, Garden elected to intentionally walk Brianna Robinson, which scored Barta from 3rd base. Taliya Talley then smacked the first pitch for a two-run single to right to plate both Gutierrez and Espy.
Garden scored its first run on an infield single by Audrey Graf, as shortstop Jaime Barta dove to her left to stop the ball. Ariel Denney rounded third on the dive and barely beat a throw at home for the run.
Butler added four more runs in the third, getting the bases loaded with one out after a hit by pitch to Asia Henry, catcher's interference with Makensey Pankers batting and an infield single by Barta. Pinch hitter Delainey Fenoglio then cleared the bases with a three-run double to left. Gutierrez re-entered for Fenoglio and after a Espy single up the middle, Robinson grounded out to score Gutierrez from third.
The Grizzlies capped their scoring with five runs in the fifth – all with two outs. Henry and Pankers both hit one-out singles, then after a fielder's choice, pinch hitter Olivia DePew hit a two-run double to right.
Following a Gutierrez walk, Espy singled to center to score Barta. Another walk to Robinson loaded the bases, then pinch hitter Anna Williams was issued a walk to score Gutierrez. A wild pitch with Taylor Lambert batting scored Espy from third base.
Grizzly reliever Cassidi Doyle threw a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, but then was tagged for all four Garden runs on three hits and three walks in the fifth. Kaylee Burnett recorded the final two outs to close the game.
Butler starter Megan Johnson (14-3) earned the win with three innings pitched, giving up one earned run on three hits and striking out three batters.
Espy was the top Grizzly hitter, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Barta and Gutierrez scored three runs each, with Barta going 2-for-2. Pankers also had a multi-hit game by going 2-for-3 and scored twice. Henry and Carlson each scored two runs.
NOTES: Butler improved to 51-14 all-time vs. Garden City under head coach Doug Chance. The Grizzlies have won 15 straight over the Broncbusters… With two walks and a hit, Gutierrez has now reached base on either a hit, walk or an error in 34 straight games.