Butler did it: Grizzlies knock off Chipola, win NJCAA softball tourney

Butler, Kan. vs. Chipola, Fla., NJCAA Division I Softball National Championship Game, May 21, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Butler (Kan.) scored three runs in the fifth inning of Saturday’s NJCAA Division I Softball Championship Game to defeat defending national champion Chipola (Fla.), 4-2 at the Canyons Softball Complex. The victory earned the Grizzlies their first NJCAA softball title in program history.

njcaalogoLeading all players with three RBIs, center fielder Megan Wurts served as Butler’s offensive leader from the leadoff spot. The sophomore went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored a run in the win.

Freshman shortstop Becca Schulte pushed across the Grizzlies other run in the title game during her 1 for 3 hitting performance. Right fielder Brynn Minor added a double to Butler’s effort, while freshman first baseman Morgan Bohanan and sophomore third baseman Danae Bina each contributed base hits.

On the mound, Jennifer Hittinger pitched six innings for the Grizzlies. The sophomore allowed two runs – one unearned – and held Chipola batters to just four hits on the afternoon. Despite the effort, Hittinger gave up a single to start off the top of the seventh inning and was replaced by Minor.

Coming in for relief duty, Minor wasted no time getting to work with a pair of strikeouts. The Butler freshman earned her fifth save of the season after retiring all three Chipola batters she faced.

Butler, Kan. vs. Chipola, Fla., NJCAA Division I Softball National Championship Game, May 21, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Butler, Kan. vs. Chipola, Fla., NJCAA Division I Softball National Championship Game, May 21, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Grizzlies’ push began with catcher Morgan Heckart drawing a walk. Butler experienced a setback later in the inning as the sophomore was thrown out at home plate, but the disappointment would soon turn to excitement.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Wurts came through in the clutch with a three-RBI single – scoring Bina from third, freshman designated player Tyesha Morgan from second and freshman left fielder Amelia Cutchlow from first. Although Wurts was thrown out at third, the damage was done and the Grizzlies secured a 4-2 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Hittinger received tournament MVP honors for her role in Butler’s championship run as she recorded four wins for the Grizzlies in the circle. Schulte, Heckart and Minor each received all-tournament recognition.

Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, Butler began its trek to the title Wednesday with an 11-2 first-round win over No. 13 seed Howard (Texas) in six innings. The Grizzlies survived a 15-inning slugfest with No. 5 seed Florida SouthWestern State on Thursday, claiming a 5-4 victory. Butler followed with a 7-4 win Friday over No. 8 seed Yavapai (Ariz.) before notching a 10-0 semifinal win over Chipola in six.

Chipola beat Salt Lake 9-7 in a loser-out game to set up the finale.

This is the eighth straight year that St. George has hosted the NJCAA softball championships.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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