The day after Butler Community College surpassed the longest known streak for collegiate softball victories, the task of prolonging it seemed enormous.
The Grizzlies trailed Northeast Texas by four runs and were down to their final four outs Sunday at the Region XIV Texas Crossover Tournament in Beaumont, Texas. A team with a 2-14 record had the reigning NJCAA champion on the ropes.
“The whole game, we had at-bats where our approach just wasn’t that great,” Butler sophomore Brynn Minor said. “But they changed pitchers and we all just rallied together.
“We’ve been there before. Once we started hitting, it was, ‘OK, we can do this.’ ”
Minor, an Eisenhower product, homered and pitched three innings of scoreless relief as Butler rallied for a 6-4 victory that extended its winning streak to 58 games heading into the start of Jayhawk Conference play Wednesday at Dodge City.
The NJCAA does not have an official record for consecutive victories. But when Butler pushed past Trinity Valley (Texas) 10-7 on Saturday for its 56th straight, the total eclipsed what’s believed to be the all-division record of 55, set by Northern Kentucky in NCAA Division II in 2005.
“I didn’t even know about it until we were around 52 or 53 and somebody mentioned it,” Butler coach Doug Chance said. “Honestly, we just talk about the process with our young ladies. It’s that approach of putting one foot in front of the other until you’re done, and then you look back and see how far you went.”
Butler, 20-0 this season, has come a long way since its last loss. Friday will mark one year since Barton defeated Butler 4-2 in the Jayhawk opener. The Grizzlies won their next 23 conference games and 38 overall to earn the program’s first national title with a 53-4 record.
With Minor, Andover Central’s Becca Schulte and San Antonio’s Regan Mergele as the only returning full-time starters, Butler has continued to win. The victory over Northeast Texas was the Grizzlies’ eighth in which they trailed at some point.
“The common thread between this team and last year’s is they absolutely hate to lose,” Chance said. “It doesn’t matter about streaks or championships when they’re in that moment. They just cannot stand to lose.”
While Chance said the Grizzlies’ defense must improve, Butler has overcome any flaws with pitching and offense. Mergele, who missed fall scrimmages with a fractured cheekbone, has posted an 8-0 record with a 0.32 ERA and 59 strikeouts. Minor and Albuquerque freshman Celina Sullivan each have four victories, while Minor has three saves.
The top of Butler’s batting order has been anchored by sophomore Ki’Audra Hayter (.421, 11 stolen bases) and Derby freshman Kenzie Young (.444, 22 RBIs). Minor leads the Grizzlies with eight home runs and 29 RBIs, while Schulte has driven in 22.
“Last year, it was players like Morgan Bohanan who played with so much confidence for us,” Chance said. “Nobody on the planet had more. Players like Brynn and Becca fit into that mold and they’re playing the part of Morgan this year.
“I see freshmen like Kenzie and Allie Jurgensen, and they’re following into those roles of Brynn and Becca. It’s great to see that overlap. You wouldn’t want to have all those in one class and all the sudden they’re gone.”
The Grizzlies had a 9 a.m. game the morning after their record-setting victory against Trinity Valley, an appointment that tempered their celebration. Chance congratulated his players in the outfield after No. 56, and said he hopes to treat his players to a nice dinner when the schedule has a more convenient gap.
“We don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff, but I think it’s definitely a huge thing to us,” Minor said. “We broke a record that’s been around a while.”