Lauren Fey at the plate during a game last season. Fey has nine hits through her first 15 at-bats this season. Collegian file photo.
KEELEN BARLOW | SPORTS REPORTER | email@example.com
The Butler softball team went 4-1 at the Rambler Rumbler from Feb. 7-9 to open the 2020 season, picking up wins over Green Bay, Evansville, Omaha and Western Illinois in Rosemont, Illinois. The Bulldogs won their first three games of a season for the first time since 2003. Here are three takeaways from the weekend:
1. Lauren Fey picked up right where she left off in 2019.
In just her freshman season last year Lauren Fey was an All-Big East selection for Butler. She hit .308 for the Bulldogs to go along with 40 hits and 15 RBI. Fey was also Butler’s best fielder among the team’s everyday players last year.
We’re only five games into the season but Fey is showing zero signs of letting up in 2020. In her 15 at-bats this weekend Fey hit .600 and totaled nine hits. That mark is tied for the most of any player at the Rambler Rumbler — Miami of Ohio’s Morgan Lott also had nine hits. Fey’s on-base percentage this weekend was .700.
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in numbers this early in the season but still an impressive weekend for Fey no doubt. Heading into this year Butler head coach Scott Hall raved about Fey’s offseason and said she might be Butler’s most improved player. We’ll see if Fey can keep the momentum going after this weekend.
2. The pitching staff was as advertised.
Butler’s 1-2 punch of Alyssa Graves and Karli Ricketts was strong to open the year. Graves struck out a total of 18 batters this weekend while Ricketts’ ERA was a mere 1.50.
Graves opened the season for Butler against Green Bay and pitched a complete game in the 9-3 win. She allowed three earned runs and struck out 10 batters against the Phoenix. Her line in a 4-3 loss to Loyola — 6.2 innings pitched, 10 hits, 4 earned runs — was not one the more impressive of her career but she still struck out eight and didn’t walk a single batter.
Ricketts pitched a complete game and struck out 11 in her 2020 opener against Evansville, a 3-2 win for Butler. She threw five innings and struck out four as Butler run-ruled Western Illinois to close the weekend.
But the Bulldogs’ staff was strong even beyond Graves and Ricketts this weekend. Madison Seigworth and Mackenzie Griman split time in the circle during Butler’s 3-2 win over Omaha and put up a solid showing. Seigworth got the start in what was her first regular season appearance since her 2019 season was cut short due to injury. She allowed back-to-back home runs in the first inning but accounted for three scoreless innings afterwards. Griman threw three hitless innings in the first outing of her Butler career.
3. Butler’s offense is off to a promising start
Butler’s 16-win season in 2019 was marred by the fact that they struggled to score runs. The Bulldogs ranked in the bottom half of the Big East conference when it came to every important offensive stat category. Hall said the team “peeled back the layers” of their offense this past offseason and put a bigger focus on the details of their performances at the plate.
The first look at Butler’s offense in 2020 was a somewhat promising one. When you look at volume, Butler scored 26 runs over five games this weekend. That number may not seem entirely impressive until you take into account that Butler didn’t score 26 runs over a five-game stretch in all of 2019.
The Bulldogs won a pair of close games thanks to timely hitting, something Butler struggled with in 2019. Butler’s insurance run in the top of the seventh against Evansville proved to be crucial in a 3-2 win. The Bulldogs trailed 2-0 against Omaha but responded for three unanswered runs to win.
Ten different players had an RBI for the Bulldogs this weekend. Ricketts led the team with five RBI and hit home runs against Green Bay and Western Illinois. She only hit three home runs in all of 2019.
Follow Keelen on Twitter @KeelenBarlow