Butler Wins Horizon League Opener In 11 Innings

CLEVELAND, OHIO -- Freshman Jenny Esparza struck out 22 batters and senior Bridget Paine drove in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning to lead Butler to a 4-1 victory over No. 3-seeded UIC in the first round of the 2010 Horizon League Softball Championship at Viking Field on Thursday, May 13.  The win sends the sixth-seeded Bulldogs into a 4:30 p.m (ET) game against No. 2 seed Wright State.

Esparza, who was named first team All-Horizon League a day earlier, turned in a pitching gem for the Bulldogs (36-17).  She pitched all 11 innings and set a school-record with her 22 strikeouts.  She allowed just four hits, while picking up her school-record 18th win of the season.

Paine ended a 1-1 deadlock with a two-out double in the top of the 11th frame.  Her hit drove in senior Annie Dolan, who had doubled to start the game-wining rally.  Sophomore Erin Falkenberry followed with a two-run, home run to left field to give the Bulldogs a three-run cushion.

Butler jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.  Sophomore Lauren McNulty opened the game with a single to right field, and she advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dolan.  Falkenberry then drove in the game’s first run with a two-out infield single.

Esparza took over from their, blanking the Flames (22-34) through six and two-thirds innings.  But with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, UIC’s Kelsey Sturgeon lofted a home run over the left field fence to tie the game.

Falkenberry led Butler’s six-hit attack with two hits an three RBIs.  Sturgeon had two of UIC’s four hits.  Esparza improved to 18-10 on the year, while UIC starter Devin Miller fell to 9-16.