Evansville, Ind. - Butler rallied from a three-run, eighth-inning deficit to draw even with Eastern Illinois, but the Panthers would push across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to come away with a 7-6 decision on Saturday (Feb. 28) afternoon in the Bulldogs' second game of the Dunn Hospitality Diamond Classic at Bran Stadium.
The loss sends Butler to 1-2 on the year, while EIU improves to 3-2.
After spotting the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, the Bulldogs cut the deficit in half in the top of the second, loading the bases on three-straight walks before Rick Betsch picked up a one-out RBI after being hit by a pitch. A potential big inning would end there, however, as Eastern Illinois would get back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
Butler used some two-out magic in their half of the sixth, as a single by Nick Hladek and a walk by Betsch put runners on first and second for Bobby Mosser, who sent a single through the left side to bring Hladek in with the tying run. Kyle Schultz followed with another single to right that drove home Betsch with the go-ahead score.
A three-run bottom of the frame by the Panthers quickly erased the Bulldog advantage before an additional run in the seventh gave EIU a 6-3 lead late in the contest.
Butler would storm back in the eighth. After loading the bases with no one down and getting one run back on a sacrifice fly from Mosser, Schultz came through with a clutch single to center that plated two more runs and brought the game back to a deadlock at 6-6.
An infield single by Colin Ziegel and a walk by Grant Fillipitch reloaded the bases with one out and put the Bulldogs in prime position to take the lead, but EIU once again got the effective pitching when it needed it by striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
Butler would again have a chance to go up in the game in the top of the ninth, as Michael Letzter and Betsch roped back-to-back one-out singles before moving up a base to put runners on second and third, but the Panthers pitching staff responded once more in the clutch, inducing a groundout and fly out to smother the threat.
In the bottom half of the frame, EIU would get the clutch hitting the Bulldogs had been missing, loading the bases with one down before getting an RBI single to right to plate the winning run.
Schultz finished with two hits and three RBI, while Betsch added two hits and two runs.
Starting pitcher Matt Sokolowski worked a solid 5.0 innings, allowing just four hits and two runs.
Butler closes out the Dunn Hospitality Diamond Classic on Sunday (March 1) when it battles Saint Louis beginning at noon at Braun Stadium.