February 7, 2012

Butler Tabbed Second In Horizon League Softball Poll

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler, boasting a strong returning cast from last year’s 32-24 squad which finished runner-up in the Horizon League Tournament, has been picked second in the annual Horizon League preseason softball poll.  The Bulldogs received two first place votes and 55 total points in the poll of league softball coaches.

Defending Horizon League Tournament champ UIC was tabbed as the preseason favorite.  The Flames, who beat Butler in three games to win last year’s league tournament title, received six first place votes and 60 total points in the poll.  Loyola picked up the remaining first place vote and finished third in the poll with 48 points.

Valparaiso, runner-up in the regular season a year ago, received 45 votes and was picked fourth by the league coaches, followed by Wright State (36), Cleveland State (33), Green Bay (21), Youngstown State (18) and Detroit (8).

The Bulldogs, under second-year head coach Scott Hall, return 2011 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Jenny Esparza (above right), plus six position starters, from last year’s successful squad.  Esparza set a league championship record with 60 strikeouts at last year’s Horizon League Tournament.  She tied her own school single season record with 18 victories in 2011, and she boosted her school career strikeouts record to 575.

Hall also returns first baseman Erin Falkenberry, who set a Butler single season record with 13 home runs in 2011, along with starters Meaghan Sullivan (.288), Lauren McNulty (.286), Jessica Huey (.280), Kayla Gray and Mallory Winters.  The Butler coach also has added several promising newcomers who could have an immediate impact.

Butler’s 32 wins in 2011 were the second-most in school history, and the team’s 14 Horizon League victories were a school-record.  The Bulldogs’ third place finish in the 2011 Horizon League regular season race matched the second-best finish in school history, and the team’s runner-up finish at the league tournament tied the 2002 squad for Butler’s best tournament finish.

The Bulldogs will open the 2012 season at the Lady Bison Round-Robin, hosted by Lipscomb University on Feb. 18-19.  Butler will play two games each against Lipscomb and Samford in the two-day event.