Bulldogs Slip Past UIC

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler's power-hitters set the stage, but it was diminutive Kayla Gray who stole the show and helped lift the Bulldogs to a 4-3 victory over Horizon League foe UIC at the Butler Softball Field on Friday, April 6.  The contest was the first of a three-game league series.

Gray delivered the game-winning blow in the bottom of the sixth inning with a looping, two-out double down the leftfield line, driving in Sarah Gronowski with the Bulldogs' fourth run.  Gronowski was pinch-running for catcher Mallory Winters, who began the sixth inning with a walk.  It was Gray's second double and seventh run batted in this season.

The Butler shortstop then put the finishing touch on the win with a game-ending double-play in the top of the seventh inning.  With a runner on first and one out, Gray scooped up a ground ball headed up the middle, stepped on second base to get one runner and then fired a throw to first for the final out.

"It's a huge win," said Butler head coach Scott Hall.  "For one we've had games like this where we've gone out and gotten a lead and then kicked it around a little, gave a team a big inning and then we never responded.  This is the first time this season we've done that, but came right back and responded with our bats."  

A rematch of last year's Horizon League Tournament championship game, the contest lived up to its advance billing.  The Bulldogs jumped in front in the bottom of the first inning on a towering solo home run by freshman Kristen Boros.  It was her first collegiate round-tripper.

Junior ace Jenny Esparza blanked the Flames on three hits through the first three innings, before running into trouble in the fourth.  UIC (15-18, 2-2 HL) struck for three runs on three hits and one Butler error, knocking Esparza out of the game.

Butler (12-21, 4-3 HL) came right back in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to the long-ball.  Senior Erin Falkenberry led off the inning with her third home run of the season, a solo shot over the centerfield fence.  It boosted her Butler career record for home runs to 35.  Winters followed with her second home run of the season to tie the game at 3-3.

Senior Breanna Fisher, who entered the game in the fifth inning, blanked the Flames over the final three innings to pick up her third win of the season.  She had five strikeouts and allowed just two hits in the relief effort.  Esparza had nine strikeouts during her four-inning stint.

Boros and Meaghan Sullivan led Butler's eight-hit attack with a pair of hits apiece.  Sullivan had one of Butler's three doubles in the game.

The two teams will play a doubleheader at the Butler Softball Diamond on Saturday, April 7, beginning at noon.