Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Mergele Leads Butler to Second Straight NJCAA National Title

By NU Athletic Communications

Incoming Nebraska pitching recruit Regan Mergele completed her junior college career on Saturday by leading Butler (Kan.) Community College to its second straight National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national title with a win over Salt Lake Community College in St. George, Utah.

Mergele was the Grizzlies' top pitcher in the postseason – and all season long – helping Butler (58-1) become the first NJCAA Division I team to win back-to-back national titles since the NJCAA split into separate divisions in 1997. Mergele was the winning pitcher in six of Butler's 10 postseason victories, posting a 6-0 record with a 1.77 ERA in 27.2 innings. She allowed only 19 hits in her 27.2 postseason innings, while totaling 38 strikeouts, an average of 9.6 strikeouts per seven innings. She was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher of the NJCAA Championship after earning three of Butler's four wins in the tournament.

Mergele earned the win in Butler's Region VI Tournament opener, tossing 4.0 innings against Colby and allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts. She then came through for the Grizzlies in a must-win regional final against Seward County, which handed Butler its only loss of the season in the previous game. Mergele was dominant in the final, throwing 5.0 no-hit innings while allowing just one walk and striking out 10. She earned the victory as the Grizzlies no-hit Seward County in a 10-0 win. Mergele earned her next win in the opening game of a best-of-three district championship series at Trinidad State, striking out seven of the 11 batters she faced and allowing only one hit over 3.0 scoreless innings in her third postseason start.

In Butler's first game at the NJCAA Championship on Wednesday, Mergele tossed a complete game in a run-rule victory over Snead State, allowing one run on three hits in 5.0 innings of work. She added seven strikeouts and the lone run she allowed came home on a wild pitch. Mergele saw her next action in the quarterfinal against Central Arizona, throwing 6.0 shutout innings and allowing only three hits. In the final against Salt Lake, Mergele allowed seven runs (four earned) in 4.2 innings – more runs and earned runs than she had allowed in her five previous postseason appearances combined – but she still earned the victory in Butler's 11-7 win. 

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Mergele finished her sophomore season with a 29-0 record, ending her junior college career with a personal 45-game winning streak. Mergele, who led the NJCAA Division I ranks in ERA during the regular season, finished with a 0.75 ERA in 2017, allowing only 14 earned runs in 130.0 innings. She averaged 10.6 strikeouts per seven innings – the highest average of any NJCAA Division I pitcher – totaling 196 strikeouts on the season. Opponents hit just .153 against Mergele this season, producing a total of only 12 extra-base hits in 438 at bats.

In her two-year career at Butler, Mergele compiled a 53-3 record with a 1.15 ERA. She allowed only 45 earned runs in 273.0 innings and struck out 330 batters. Opponents hit just .202 against Mergele in her Butler career and managed only 27 extra-base hits in 977 at bats.

Mergele, who also pitched Smithson Valley High School to a Texas Class 5A state championship in 2012, signed a National Letter of Intent with Nebraska earlier this month. She will officially join the Huskers for the start of the fall semester and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

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