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Barton makes statement with split against No. 6 Butler
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It was going to be a good gauge. The new kid on the block, so to speak, against the bully on the block.
The Barton Cougars softball season had gotten off to a torrid start. A 16-game game winning streak and an 18-1 record. Wins over the No. 10 and 15 teams in the NJCAA. The only loss to the No. 7 team.
Coming to town was the bully of the Jayhawk West. The Butler Grizzlies had won four straight Region VI titles until Barton ended that streak last year. Butler was 15-3 and ranked No. 6. Barton wants to be that new bully.
In order to be the new bully you have to beat the current bully.
While Barton didn’t overtake the bully, the Cougars let Butler know they weren’t leaving the block. The two teams split the doubleheader at Cougar Fields. Barton won the opener 4-2 then Butler closed out the day with a 9-1 win.
“Overall this was a good test to see where we were as a team and I think we responded well,” Barton Coach Marc Benjamin said. “We need to continue to get better and I feel we have a legit shot at another region six title.”
In the opener, Madison Didion was once again in command pitching. Didion, a freshman from Utah, limited Butler to just five hits and two runs. She struck out seven and walked one to improve to 10-1 on the season.
“I knew game one would be low scoring with two really good pitchers going at it.” Coach Benjamin said. “I can’t say enough about how well Madison Didion is pitching this season.”
After falling behind on back-to-back 2-out doubles in the top of the first, Barton tied the game in the bottom of the second. Holly Posegate drove in Jenna Hosey to tie the game. Barton took the lead in the third inning when Jayden Gonzales singled in Lili Ertman.  
The Cougars continued to do it one run at a time with another run in the fourth. This time it was a big 2-out home run from McKenna Mauler after Butler had tied the game. Mauler’s fourth home run on the year gave Barton a 3-2 lead.
The Cougars got a little insurance with a run in fifth – the fourth straight inning Barton scored one run. This time Barton manufactured the run. Maddison Schofield singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cadie O’Donnell. Gonzales drove Schofield with a single to right.
“McKenna Mauler had a huge two-strike home run,” Coach Benjamin said. “We also took advantage of a couple errors to get a run and then executed a perfect inning with a lead off hit, sac bunt, and then a base hit to score a run.  When you play really good teams you need to pitch well, play defense, and get timely hits and that is what we did.”
That was more than enough for Didion.
“When she is on the mound our players just know that she is not giving up runs and I think it makes them more relaxed.” Coach Benjamin said. “She made two bad pitches all game and they came in the first inning and it led to a run but other than that she was on her game.”
Barton took a 1-0 lead in the second game when Mauler doubled to right to score Hosey in the second. That would be the only run on the game for the Cougars.
Barton was still very much in the game heading into the fifth inning. Barton trailed just 3-1 before Butler scored six times in the fifth for the 9-1 win. The Cougars committed three errors that allowed three unearned runs.
“We didn’t pitch well or play defense and it came back to get us.” Coach Benjamin said. “One really bad fifth inning and next thing you know we are run ruled. Hitting comes and goes but the only way to be a great team is with pitching and defense.”
Now it’s on to Concordia and the Cloud County tournament this weekend. Barton will play Iowa Western and Iowa Central as well as Highland Saturday. Sunday, the Cougars will take on Muscatine (Iowa) and Cloud.