For a long time, Butler Community College softball coach Doug Chance did his best to keep his head down, bull through his work and keep fighting the good fight.
Those days are over.
With one of the highest preseason rankings in school history and a team chock-full of Division I talent ready to defend last season’s Region VI Division I title and make a third consecutive trip to the NJCAA Division I Tournament in May, the Grizzlies have made themselves impossible to ignore.
“I think my biggest challenge is going to be to keep everyone engaged because you can only put nine on the field,” said Butler coach Doug Chance, who is in his ninth season. “We’ll play right at 70 games before the region tournament, and I did that because I’ve got a lot of kids that need at-bats.
“Literally, every kid on the team can contribute. I don’t look at anyone as nothing put a pinch runner, or just a specialty player.
The Grizzlies, ranked No. 11 in the NJCAA Division I preseason poll, are 4-0 after winning a tournament in Texas last weekend. Last year, Butler went 39-18 and 14-2 in Jayhawk West play for a regular-season title.
Pitcher Mac Millspaugh and twin sister Alex Millspaugh, a catcher, both return and have signed with Creighton. Pitcher/outfielder Kelsey Berlin has signed with Arkansas. All are Northwest products.
Pitcher Maggie Ham, a Louisiana-Lafayette transfer, has signed with Oklahoma. Third baseman Kaitlyn Wolken is headed to Indiana State.
Shortstop Ashley Malone, from East, is being recruited by Louisiana Tech, Wichita State and Texas-Arlington. Malone hit .419 with six home runs and 48 RBIs last season, and gets extra help in the batting order from freshman catcher/first baseman Kate James, who has an offer from Texas-Arlington and is already being recruited by Wichita State, Southern Illinois and LSU.
Andale product Syd Stuever joins Butler after spending one season at Wichita State. The sophomore outfielder is coming off two shoulder surgeries and thought she’d given up softball at one point after last season, leaving the Shockers and moving to Tulsa to take a full-time job.
“(Chance) called me and I realized I needed to go back and get my education,” Stuever said. “There’s not a lot of pain in my shoulder, which was something I was concerned about and one of the big reasons I didn’t want to play, because I don’t want a third surgery.
“I’m taking it slow right now and haven’t felt like I’m forced to do anything. There are a lot of really good athletes on the team and I’m excited to see where we go with things.”
Mac Millspaugh went 19-10 last season with a 1.91 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 176 innings. Berlin went 9-5 with a 2.36 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 101 innings, although she’s just as valuable in the field, playing outfield and hitting .359 with 47 RBIs and 16 doubles.
Freshman pitcher Brittany Gustin will join Millspaugh, Ham and Berlin in the rotation.
“We have a lot of depth, so if one person has an off day we can just bring in another person,” Mac Millspaugh said. “We want to make it back to nationals and win some games there, so do to that we’re going to need to play a lot of games.”