Butler Opens Softball Season In Tennessee

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler will open the 2012 softball season with four games in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18-19.  The Bulldogs will play two games each against Lipscomb and Samford at the Lady Bison Round Robin, hosted by Lipscomb.

The Bulldogs will kickoff of the 2012 campaign at Draper Diamond against Lipscomb at 11 a.m. (CT) on Saturday.  Butler then will face Samford at 3:30 p.m., to close out the first day of competition.  On Sunday, Butler will play Samford at 11 a.m. and Lipscomb at 1:15 p.m. to wrap up the three-team event.

The Bulldogs, under second-year head coach Scott Hall, are coming off a 32-24 campaign and a runner-up finish in the 2011 Horizon League Softball Championship.  The 32 wins were the second-most in school history and the runner-up trophy matched Butler's highest finish in the league tournament.

Hall returns six starters and three pitchers, including 2011 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Jenny Esparza (above), from last year's squad.  Esparza tied her own school record for wins with 18 victories in 2011, and she boosted her career strikeouts record to 575.  The junior right-hander had a 1.67 earned run average and 268 strikeouts in 30 appearances.

Also back are first team All-Horizon League performers Erin Falkenberry and Lauren McNulty.  Falkenberry, a senior first baseman, set a Butler single season record with 13 home runs a year ago, and she led the Bulldogs with 43 runs batted in.  McNulty, a senior outfielder, batted .286 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 2011.

Butler will play its first 19 games away from home.  The Bulldogs will compete in tournaments at Evansville (Feb. 25-26) and Arkansas (March 3-4), before taking a week-long trip to California (March 9-14).  Butler's first home contest will be against IPFW on March 19.