Bulldogs Blank Wright State In League Tournament

CHICAGO, ILL. -- Jenny Esparza pitched a four-hit shutout and Meaghan Sullivan capped a four-run rally to help lead Butler to a 4-0 victory over Wright State on the first day of the 2011 Horizon League Softball Championship at the Loyola Softball Park on Wednesday, May 11.  The third-seeded Bulldogs advance to face No. 2 seed Valparaiso on Thursday, May 12.

Esparza, named Horizon League Pitcher of the Year earlier in the week, was nearly untouchable through the first five innings of the contest, allowing just one hit while striking out nine.

But the Raiders (26-28) mounted a challenge in the sixth and seventh innings.  Two hits and a two-out walk loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning, before Esparza struck out pinch-hitter Katie Kine to end the threat.  One inning later, Wright State loaded the bases with one out on a hit and two walks.  Esparza ended that threat and the game with consecutive strikeouts.

Esparza (15-8) finished the game with 14 strikeouts, while recording her 15th complete game and her fifth shutout.

The Bulldogs (29-22) gave Esparza all the run support she needed in the fourth inning.  Jessica Huey started the rally with a one-out single through the left side, and Alyssa Coleman followed with a single up the middle.  The Raiders looked like they might wiggle out of the threat when Esparza grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Kayla Gray followed with an infield single to score Huey with the eventual game-winner.

Erin Jackson kept the inning going with a run-scoring single to left field, and then Sullivan followed with a two-run single to right field.  The Bulldogs recorded six of their eight hits in the game during the four-run rally.

Huey and Coleman each recorded a pair of hits in the win to lead Butler’s offense.  Six different Bulldogs hit safely in the victory.

Butler and Valparaiso will meet in the second game on Thursday.  The winners’ bracket contest is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. (CT, 2:30 p.m. ET).