Bulldogs Split Softball Opening Day

Bulldogs Split Softball Opening Day

NASHVILLE, TENN. -- Strong performances by a couple of newcomers helped lift Butler to a 4-2 victory over Tennessee State in the Bulldogs’ softball season-opener at the Play It Again Sports/Austin Peay Classic in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 19.  Butler rallied late in the second game, but dropped a 7-6 decision to Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Freshman pitcher Jenny Esparza made her Butler debut in the opener and picked up her first collegiate win with a complete game effort.  She allowed just three hits and two earned runs, while striking out 13 in the Butler victory.

Sparking Butler’s offense in the opener was sophomore Jessica Huey, a transfer from IUPUI.  She went three for three in the game, scored two runs and drove in one with her first Butler home run.

The Bulldogs scored twice in the first inning on a run-scoring double by sophomore Erin Falkenberry and a run-scoring single by Esparza.  Huey made it 3-0 in the second with a home run down the left field line, and the Bulldogs added a final run in the fifth inning on a run-scoring double by senior Annie Dolan.

Tennessee State picked up both of its runs in the bottom of the third inning.

Tennessee-Chattanooga jumped to a 7-0 lead in the second game behind power hitters Tiffany Baker and Laci Upchurch.  The two hit back-to-back home runs in a three-run third inning for the Lady Mocs, and Baker added another home run in the three-run fifth inning.

Butler began to chip away at the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.  Walks to Lauren McNulty and Bridget Paine and a single by Falkenberry loaded the bases.  Esparza plated one run with a single and a second run scored on Huey’s sacrifice fly.

The Bulldogs then exploded for four runs in the bottom of the seventh.  Walks to pinch hitter Devin Dearing and McNulty around a single by Rachel Brummer loaded the bases.  A fielder’s choice by Dolan scored Dearing to make it 7-3.  Paine then launched a three-run home run over the center field fence to cut the margin to one.  But the Lady Mocs retired the final two Butler hitters to end the comeback.

Huey had four hits on Butler’s opening day, while Dolan and Esparza each added three hits.

The Bulldogs (1-1) will travel to Clarksville, Tenn., on Saturday (Feb. 20) to continue play in the tournament.  Butler will face Tennessee-Chattanooga for a second straight game at 1 p.m., before meeting host Austin Peay.  The tournament will conclude on Sunday, Feb. 21.