May 12, 2011

Bulldogs Advance In League Tournament

CHICAGO, ILL. -- Erin Jackson sparked an 11-hit attack and Jenny Esparza pitched another gem to lead Butler to a 3-1 victory over Valparaiso on the second day of the 2011 Horizon League Softball Championship at the Loyola Softball Park.  The win left Butler as one of two unbeaten teams in the double-elimination tournament.

Jackson had three hits and scored Butler’s first run against the No. 2-seeded Crusaders.  She singled with one out in the fourth inning and then came around to score on an error by Valparaiso shortstop Angie Doerffler.  The Butler center fielder also singled in the second inning and again in the seventh.

Esparza blanked the Crusaders through the first four innings, before surrendering her first run of the tournament in the fifth frame.  She faced a bases-loaded situation in the seventh inning, but struck out clean-up hitter KC Boldt to end the game.  It was Esparza’s 13th strikeout of the contest, and her 27th of the tournament.

Butler (30-22), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, threatened in each of the first three innings in the contest, loading the bases in the first and second frames and getting a runner to third base in the third.  Jackson broke the deadlock in the fourth, and the Bulldogs added two more runs in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Esparza and a run-scoring double by Mallory Winters.

Esparza, the Horizon League’s Pitcher of the Year, had a no-hitter through three innings, and she surrendered just five hits in the game.  The victory lifted her to 16-8 on the season.

The Bulldogs will face No. 5 seed UIC, a 6-2 winner over host Loyola, in a winner’s bracket game on Friday at 1:30 p.m. (CT).  The winner will advance to the tournament championship round on Saturday at noon.