(Cover photo credit: Ashli McLean)
Butler softball head coach Brittany Braun said her team entered its Sixth Region opening game against Bullitt East with a chip on its shoulder. The Bearettes had fallen 4-1 to the Lady Chargers in this same position last year.
But today would prove a different outcome as junior pitcher Hailey Whitmer recorded a complete game, two-hit shutout and junior catcher Faith Harris’ RBI single in the bottom of the third inning brought freshman Anna Greenwell home.
“I was feeling pretty confident, “said Whitmer. “I knew they were a good team, and they were gonna hit it, so I just came to play my game.”
“We came with a lot of energy, ready to play,” said Braun. “Our pitching was awesome today, you know. Our catcher stepped up, got a big hit. So just really excited about the win.”
The No. 11 Bearettes hosted No. 5 Bullitt East at Shively Park.
“They’re an excellent, excellent ball team,” said Braun on Bullitt East, who went 23-5 this season. “We weren’t gonna get many runs on them, so one, yea sometimes all it takes is one.”
It was Faith who came through for the Bearettes (25-6-1). Before she went up to bat, Braun simply said to her “KB” in memory of Faith’s friend Katie Buchanan who recently passed from cancer. Faith has those initials on her shoes and other softball gear.
Teammate Anna Greenwell had advanced to third base in the bottom of the third with a walk and then a sacrifice bunt when Harris went up to bat. Harris’ grounder up the right side brought Greenwell home.
On Harris’ hit, Braun said, “It doesn’t surprise me because, you know, she’s a very, very great hitter. She’s kind of the person [who] carries this team a lot, so I knew that if anybody was gonna do it, she’s the one to do it.”
Still down 0-1, Bullitt East brought some excitement to the game when Emily Salyer hit a line drive past third base for a single in the top of the sixth. However, Bullitt East pitcher Taylor Roby went up to bat next and recorded the third out.
During the Lady Chargers’ last chance to put some runs on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh, Whitmer walked Lindsay Renneisen to first base. Braun called a timeout to settle Whitmer down and advise her and Harris that the next Bullitt East batter would go for a bunt. Harris had worked on throw downs at yesterday’s practice, so she was ready for it in case it appeared.
Sure enough, Roby went for the bunt. But with a miss, Harris caught the ball rolling on the ground and quickly dished it to second base as Renneisen was going for the steal to second.
In a close and intense moment, the umpire called “Out!” amidst an ecstatic Butler crowd.
Roby also only allowed two hits today, but Whitmer’s pitching coupled with Harris’ hit was the game.
“Hailey was awesome today,” said Braun on her starting pitcher. “You can’t expect that against a better team. She’s worked really hard in the offseason to…get herself where she’s at today, so a lot of that hard work. That’s a pat on the back to her because she does a lot of that on her own.”
Braun doted on the team chemistry of the team, pleased with how well all of the girls get along. She said they play a lot of games at practice to keep the girls entertained.
“This group works so hard,” added Braun. “Every day we come out here, they work hard, one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had.”
This Butler bunch will look to get a win over No. 19 Holy Cross (26-10-1) at the Sixth Region semifinals on June 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium.