The work started eight months ago for the Butler Community College softball team, and came in the wake of the biggest challenge in coach Doug Chance’s 12 seasons.
“Even when we were going through all that, I knew we had the talent to make a deep run, to make the national tournament and tell a different kind of story,” Chance said. “We were going in the wrong direction from Day 1, and I think that gave us a little bit of motivation for this season.”
Butler’s year started with adversity, after six players were hospitalized in August after an outbreak of exertional rhabdomyolysis – a breakdown of skeletal muscle after engaging in physical activity – following two intense days of workouts.
“It was trying,” Chance said. “What happened in August ... I think we all have learned from it and have made ourselves educated on rhabdo and hopefully the studies and information that come out of this make it so other people also are aware of what can happen.”
Butler’s year is ending in decidedly different fashion. The Grizzlies have won 28 straight games to tie the school record headed into this weekend’s Region VI tournament in El Dorado. It’s a record set by the 2013 team that went 54-4 and made the national semifinals.
Butler (43-4), which also won its ninth Jayhawk title under Chance this spring, face the Dodge City-Seward winner at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Grizzlies have been to the national tournament six times under Chance and had a four-year streak of national tournament appearances snapped last season.
Butler’s last loss came on March 3, dropping the first game of a doubleheader against Barton.
We never want them to be content. We can always do everything smarter, we can always keep improving.
Butler softball coach Doug Chance
“We have a lot of players who are very coachable, and they always want to get better,” Chance said. “We never want them to be content. We can always do everything smarter, we can always keep improving ... 47 games into the season and I still don’t think we’re as good as we can be.”
And as he’s always done, Chance has made No. 6 Butler into a national power with the help of local talent.
Goddard product and redshirt freshman Morgan Bohanan leads the team with a .525 batting average.
“We work really hard, every day, because we’re on a mission,” Bohanan said. “We take our goals seriously. The winning streak has been fun, but any given day you can get beat. The ultimate goal for us is to get to the national tournament, to make it to Utah.”
Chance’s wild card this season has been freshman Brynn Minor, an Eisenhower product who is second in the nation with a 0.60 ERA, second on Butler with a .486 batting average and leads the team with 70 hits. She has struck out 55 batters in 47 innings.
28 straight wins for Butler’s softball team, tying school record set in 2013
6 NJCAA tournament appearances under Butler coach Doug Chance
9 Jayhawk titles under Chance
“In the fall, we plugged her in so she could throw batting practice and give our pitchers a break,” Chance said. “And everyone struggled to hit her. So I went over and said, ‘From now on you’re a pitcher.’ And we recruited her exclusively as a hitter. Now, she’s who we turn to when we want to close a game out.”
Minor credits her coaches and teammates for helping her thrive in the dual roles.
“Total props to the coaches and my teammates, because they’ve given me a lot more confidence than I’ve had in the past,” Minor said. “I’ve got this newfound love for the game, and I really enjoy being involved in the different aspects. It keeps me a lot more focused on every part of the game, not just the hitting.
“The winning streak means a lot to all of us, and especially with (Chance) comparing us to the 2013 team that made the (semifinals). But we can’t get a big head. We can’t think we’ll just blow past everybody we play. We can’t overlook teams, because especially at this time of the year, every team has good players and any given day they can win.”