Softball grounded by loss

Disappointing—that’s the word Butler softball head coach Scott Hall used to describe his team’s performance Saturday versus Youngstown State.

Both games of the doubleheader went into extra innings, with the Bulldogs winning the opener narrowly, 4-3, before dropping the second game, 3-0.

Butler’s offense in the second game was stifled by freshman pitcher Casey Crozier, who held the Bulldogs (26-18, 12-4 HL) to five hits and no runs.

It was the eighth game this season in which Butler has failed to score a run.

“We’ve been relying on our pitching a lot to carry us this season,” junior left fielder Lauren McNulty said. “Our pitchers got into a little bit of trouble and we should have been able to help them out, but we just didn’t hit well as a team. I think we needed to be a little more focused.”

Hall had similar thoughts about the game.

“I thought we should have been able to take both games,” Hall said. “We’ve got to get our bats going a little better if we want to go deep in the conference tournament.”

The Bulldogs’ bats did enough to win the day’s first game, and sophomore Jenny Esparza got the win by striking out 13 in nine innings of work.

Esparza worked a no-hitter through five-and-a-third innings and Butler led, 2-0, heading into the sixth before Youngstown State (22-18, 5-10 HL) came alive.

Singles by junior second baseman Kristina Philen and freshman right fielder Sarah Ingalls led to a tied game, before a fielder’s choice scored Ingalls for a 3-2 Penguin lead.

But Butler responded in the bottom half of the inning. Junior right fielder Jessica Huey’s sacrifice bunt scored the eventual game-winning run and the Bulldogs sealed a 4-3 victory.

“It’s exciting to know that they have my back,” Esparza said. “For them to put those runs together to win the game was definitely a relief.”

The doubleheader marked the last home regular season games for three Butler seniors—pitcher Jennifer Chasteen, center fielder Erin Jackson and third baseman Lauren Ott.

“They’ve been great leaders,” Hall said. “I’m going to have a great coaching career, if I continue to have seniors like this—ones that are great representatives of Butler softball and the university as a whole.”

Junior first baseman Erin Falkenberry said the team will greatly miss the seniors once they’re gone.

“The seniors have all led in different ways and that is something we all look up to,” Falkenberry said. “They have taught us so much and we know that we can step up to fill their roles next year and be leaders.”

The Bulldogs will finish the season on the road at Wright State and at Loyola Thursday through Sunday.

Butler is currently sitting atop the Horizon League standings, ahead of second place Loyola (22-18, 12-5 HL). A first-place finish would give the Bulldogs the right to host the conference tournament, scheduled to begin May 11.

“If the Youngstown series taught us anything, it was that anybody can beat us on any given day,” Hall said. “We have to come out and give our best effort every day.”

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