No. 1 Butler advances to NJCAA semis, shuts out Central AZ 9-0

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (Butler Communications) -

Butler softball advanced to tonight's semifinals of the NJCAA Division I National Tournament with a 9-0 victory over No. 5 Central Arizona on Friday at Canyons Softball Complex.

The top-ranked Grizzlies (56-1) will play No. 2 Salt Lake, Utah (52-6), who defeated No. 11 Lakeland, Ill., 6-1 in quarterfinal action. Game time will be at 6:00 p.m. CST (5:00 p.m. Utah time).

Butler hit five home runs in the shutout win over Central Arizona, while sophomore pitcher Regan Mergele tossed six shutout innings, allowed just three hits and struck out four.

The Grizzlies broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning when Becca Schulte and Brynn Minor hit back-to-back solo home runs. Schulte tied Minor for the single-season lead with her 26th home run to left field, then Minor re-took the lead by hitting her 27th homer to right-center.

In the fifth, Alexis Reed and Celina Sullivan crushed consecutive solo blasts to put Butler up 4-0. Later in the inning, Ki'Audra Hayter was hit with a pitch, stole second and third, then scored on a Schulte single to left-center.

Butler added another insurance run in the sixth when pinch runner Nykiah Hines scored from third base in a collision at home plate on a Sullivan groundout.

Allison Jurgensen capped the scoring for Butler with a three-run blast to left field in the seventh.

Schulte went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Jurgensen was 2-for-4 with three runs driven in.

Mergele improved to 28-0 overall on the season, while Sullivan closed the game with a shutout inning.

NOTES: Mergele lowered her earned-run average to 0.56, which ranks first among NJCAA D-I pitchers... With two runs batted in, Schulte increased her season total to 106. Wabash Valley (IL) C/OF Natalie David leads the nation with 108... Through three games at the NJCAA National Tournament, Butler is hitting .384 (30-for-78) with 12 home runs, 31 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases. The Grizzlies are averaging 11.0 runs in those games.