Bulldogs Split With League-Leading Loyola
CHICAGO, ILL. -- Erin Falkenberry hit her record-breaking 12th
home run in the top of the seventh inning to lift Butler to a 1-0
victory over league-leading Loyola in the first game of a
doubleheader at Loyola Softball Park on Saturday, April 30.
The Ramblers rebounded in the nightcap with a 2-0 victory.
Falkenberry’s decisive blow, which broke her own Butler single season home run record, provided all the run support that sophomore pitcher Jenny Esparza needed. The Butler righthander allowed just one hit and struck out 18 in a dominant, complete-game effort.
Esparza was nicked for a two-out single in the bottom of the first inning, but she ended the frame with a strikeout. She then saw two Loyola runners reach base in the second inning, but she responded by striking out the next eight Loyola hitters! The Butler ace struck out 15 of the final 17 batters she faced, while picking up her 14th win.
Loyola pitcher Brittany Gardner had a no-hitter through five-and-a-third innings, before Butler’s Callie Dennison singled up the middle. That was Butler’s last hit until Falkenberry’s game-winning home run with one out in the seventh inning. It was the 31st home run of Falkenberry’s Butler career.
Gardner (12-12) bounced back in the second game, combining with Keali Engelkens to toss a no-hitter at the Bulldogs. The two Loyola pitchers combined for six strikeouts and allowed just four Butler baserunners. Engelkens (8-3), who pitched the final four innings, picked up the win.
Esparza (14-8) was nearly as strong, giving up just six hits while striking out nine. But she surrendered a pair of runs on two hits and an error in the fourth inning.
Butler (27-22, 13-8 Horizon League), trailing Loyola (23-22, 13-6 HL) by two games in the loss column, will close out its regular season with a single game against the Ramblers at 12 p.m. (CT) on Sunday (May 1).