The title defense of the Barton Community College softball team took a dramatic sixth inning turn as Butler Community College earned a 11-10 comeback win Thursday afternoon at El Dorado's East Park for the Region VI Division I championship. Owning the lead for most of the contest, the No. 9 ranked Lady Cougars had victory within its grasp until a five-run Butler sixth inning seized the title from the defending region champions. The No. 6 ranked Grizzlies end the Lady Cougars' season with a program's best 51-8 record while Butler's thirty-one game win streak extends the season vying for next week's District E Championship with a 46-4 record.
The Lady Cougars' historic season's end comes with numerous program top efforts including wins and win percentage. Going 1-5 against Butler this season, three of those losses came by a mere one run generated in the later innings.
Butler took an early 1-0 lead on a sac fly driving in Megan Wurts who doubled to right field on Madison Didion's first pitch of the game.
Getting the leadoff batter on for the third straight inning, the Lady Cougars didn't waste their third inning as the top of the lineup of Maddison Schofield and Cadie O'Donnell reached base with Jayden Gonzales driving in the tying run. Two outs later Payton Summers drove a 2-2 pitch up the middle scoring two giving Barton the 3-1 lead.
The first of two Barton errors in the game opened up the third inning but in what was a preview of things to come, ace Didion was one punch-out pitch shy of getting out of the inning. Digging Brynn Minor a 0-2 hole, Minor fouled off the third pitch before sending a rope over the left field fence tying the game at three.
Playing a huge part of the Cougars' 9-1 win earlier ending Dodge City's season, the 8-9 hitters of McKenna Mauler and Lili Ertmann keyed Barton's answer in the following inning. Mauler led off the inning with a great piece of hitting sending an outside pitch to right field. Looking to sacrifice Mauler to second, Ertmann's perfectly placed bunt forced the Butler defense to make a play but instead sent the throw into right field giving Barton runners at the corners. Following a Schofield fielder's choice to push in Mauler, O'Donnell followed with a single with Gonzales driving in her second and third run of the game on a scorching single up the middle giving Barton a 6-3 lead.
Mauler would push the lead out to four in the following inning as the Great Bend sophomore jumped on the first 1-out pitch she saw with a deep shot to centerfield for her thirteenth of the season.
As champions do, the Grizzlies went back to work behind a leadoff double by Morgan Bohanan followed by a walk by Becca Schulte and Minor single to load the bases. Didion dug in putting Morgan Heckart in an 0-2 hole but Heckart fouled off the third before laying off two waste pitches. With a 2-2 count Heckart sent a liner into centerfield to plate one but a Schofield error would tack on another. A spectacular leaping catch on a full out sprint towards the left field line by Brittany Wood saved further damage but a Mikayla Waggnor ensuing sac fly was pure enough to send in the Grizzlies third run of the game cutting the Barton lead to one.
Opening up the pivotal sixth, No. 9 batter Drea Lesure produced perhaps one of the most underrated plays of the game catching the Lady Cougars off-guard laying down a bunt and beating the throw. Wurts laid down a sac bunt and a Bohanan single later, the Grizzlies quickly had runners at the corners. Schulte's sac fly tied the game and Minor completed her 3-for-4 game with an ensuing single. Once again Didion came within a strike of getting out of the inning but Heckart had other plans launching a 1-2 pitch to the scoreboard for her fourth long ball of the season setting off a frenzy of Grizzly celebration with the 10-7 lead.
With Didion's day coming to an end, Holly Posegate was greeted by a Danae Bina double before Waggnor drove a 1-2 pitch to center getting what would be the game winning insurance run.
Statistically the hope for a Barton seventh inning rally didn't appear likely as the batting order showed the 7-8-9 in the lineup coming to the plate. But with those spots filled with sophomores, Posegate set the tone refusing to go down on a 0-2 pitch bouncing a seeing-eye single up the middle. Mauler just missed good connection on her opportunity popping up a high fly ball to the infield with Ertmann putting the ball in play forcing another error as the Grizzlies went to throw out a hustling Posegate into the second base bag.
Schofield, who had struggled previously in the tournament but regained the stroke in the latter half of the Dodge City game, went 4-for-5 at the top of the lineup with none larger than the freshman's final at-bat. Dialed in on the first pitch, Schofield crushed a shot to left center for the Australian's ninth of the season setting off a wave of excitement with hopes of a dramatic comeback with one-out. However, Minor would get O'Donnell to groundout for the second out, then following a four-pitch walk to Gonzales, was able to strike out Wood on a full-count pitch to end the game.
Didion dropped to 26-5 on the year ending the freshman's campaign with the second most wins and strikeouts (210) in program history.
As both teams ended with fourteen hits each, Schofield's four hits led the Lady Cougars with Gonzales, Wood, Posegate, and Mauler collecting two each. Schofield's four runs batted in also led the team with Gonzales driving in three.
Heckart's season-high five RBI led the Grizzlies with Minor and Bina each with three hits teaming with Heckart's two giving Butler a combined eight hits in the middle of the lineup.
Minor earned the win in two innings of work improving to 4-0 while continuing to lead the nation in Division I pitchers with a 0.79 earned-run average.
The Grizzlies' title was its seventh in the last ten years and earns the right to host next week's District E Championship at East Park, a home Butler went undefeated at this season at 24-0.
Complete tournament information can be found at www.kjccc.org.