INDIANAPOLIS - The Butler softball team was one inning away from sweeping a home doubleheader against Loyola on Saturday. Junior Jenny Esparza threw a shutout in a 2-0 game one victory, but Loyola made a big comeback in the second game to win 5-4.
"We played 13 good innings. It's too bad there are 14 innings in a doubleheader," head coach Scott Hall said. "But, we're playing better. We just need to be a little better defensively and continue to be aggressive and force the issue on offense."
Esparza, making her first start at home this season, tossed a three-hit shutout to dominate the day's first game. She struck out seven and walked one. Loyola only had one baserunner reach second base in the game.
Junior Meaghan Sullivan had two of Butler's four hits in the game. She doubled and scored in the bottom of the 6th to give Butler a late insurance run. The game's first run came in the bottom of the 5th when senior Erin Falkenberry walked and later scored on an RBI by junior Kayla Gray.
Loyola's Amanda Ciran nearly matched Esparza, pitching 4.1 shutout innings and allowing just one hit until Butler broke through. Ciran struck out three and allowed just four hits in a complete-game effort.
The Bulldogs (8-21, 2-3) had a 4-0 lead and appeared to be in control in the nightcap before one disastrous inning kept the Dawgs from a sweep. Loyola struck for five runs - all unearned - in the top of the 5th to overtake BU. Two Butler errors set the stage for a grand slam with two outs by Lauren Zaworski.
Butler had taken the lead earlier in the game when Lauren McNulty cranked a two-run homer to center in the 1st inning. An RBI double by Sullivan in the 3rd inning would give BU a 3-0 lead. Moments later, Sullivan scored on a sac bunt by McNulty.
Sophomore Leah Bry pitched 5.0 innings without allowing an earned run, but was still pinned with the loss. She struck out six and walked one. Breanna Fisher pitched the final two frames, striking out five.
Butler and Loyola will finish their three-game league series Sunday, April 1 at noon.