But­ler tosses first per­fect game in OBU his­tory

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - FROM STAFF RE­PORTS

ARKADEL­PHIA — Ju­nior Oua­chita Bap­tist pitcher Marissa But­ler threw a no-hit­ter on Satur­day and upped her­self with the first per­fect game in pro­gram his­tory on Sun­day.

But­ler, from Plano, Texas, pow­ered Oua­chita (19-22, 15-19 Great Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence) to its first con­fer­ence sweep of the sea­son. The Tigers won both games on Satur­day and two more on Sun­day against North­west­ern Ok­la­homa State (11-29, 10-24) at Sully An­der­son Field.

“I can’t take any credit, my team played great be­hind me.” But­ler said, “Hon­estly, I’m still in dis­be­lief. Go­ing through that in­ning, I was think­ing to my­self that this is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing.”

But­ler (9-8) threw the first no-hit­ter of her ca­reer in a 2-0 win on Satur­day. She was per­fect in Sun­day’s 5-0 vic­tory to fin­ish with 10 strike­outs to just one walk in 14 in­nings in two days.

Oua­chita held the Rangers score­less in all four games. Ju­nior Kelsey O’Brien (3-0), from Den­ton, Texas, picked up the win in Satur­day’s sec­ond game, a 7-0 win.

Fresh­man Lexi Brooks (2-3), of Mena, al­lowed just two hits in three in­nings as the starter in a 1-0 win to close the se­ries on Sun­day. O’Brien pitched the fi­nal four in­nings to pick up the save.

The pitch­ing staff com­bined to give up just nine hits over the week­end.

The sweep was Oua­chita’s best con­fer­ence re­sult of the se­ries. The team’s pre­vi­ous best out­ing in the GAC this sea­son came against Southern Nazarene (19-24, 15-16), as Oua­chita won three of four games in Bethany, Okla., to open con­fer­ence play.

De­spite fin­ish­ing fifth in the 195-pound weight class as a ju­nior and putting him­self in po­si­tion to com­pete for a state cham­pi­onship as a se­nior be­fore suf­fer­ing an in­jury, wrestling at the next level wasn’t a part of Spellings’ plans un­til he made a visit to the cam­pus in Arkadel­phia.

“Be­fore I went and took my visit, I had it planned out where I wanted to go to col­lege, and it wasn’t OBU,” said Spellings. “I took my visit as a chance to just kind of see what it was like and maybe we’ll find some­thing that we like. I talked to the as­sis­tant coach be­fore, took the visit around the cam­pus and then talked to (head) coach (Kevin) Crutch­mer.

“I think when the re­al­ity hit me that I have an op­por­tu­nity to do what I love and get paid to do it at the next level, it just moved me, and I didn’t think I could pass that up.”

Much like Lake­side, OBU has reached tremen­dous lev­els of suc­cess in its brief his­tory. Since its birth in 2010, the OBU wrestling pro­gram has claimed two top-five fin­ishes in the NCAA Divi­sion II Na­tional Cham­pi­onships.

Lit­tle Rock na­tive Tyler Mann be­came the eighth OBU wrestler to garner All-Amer­i­can hon­ors this sea­son, reach­ing the na­tional semi­fi­nals in the process.

While the ac­co­lades speak for them­selves, it was Crutch­mer and his coach­ing staff that drew Spellings to OBU.

“One thing that I’ve no­ticed al­ready is that the coach cares about the wrestlers on more than just a wrestling level,” Spellings said. “He cares about them in the class­room and in real life; it’s not just wrestling to them. To me, it’s re­ally cru­cial to how the pro­gram does, and it’s why they are so ef­fec­tive.”

As the first four-year se­nior un­der Lake­side coach H.E. Bur­chard, Spellings has been through all of the ups and downs dur­ing his ca­reer.

The se­nior cred­ited Bur­chard and as­sis­tant coaches Nick Bal­lard and Tony Bradley with help­ing him be­come the wrestler that he is to­day.

“It’s re­ally an honor to get to be coached by them,” said Spellings. “One of our as­sis­tant coaches is a hall of famer, coach Bradley for his ser­vice in Ten­nessee. Just their com­bined knowl­edge has helped me so much.

“They know so much in­di­vid­u­ally and when they put it to­gether, you see dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and dif­fer­ent ways to work some­thing. If you take all of that in, there’s noth­ing that beats that.”

Hav­ing never con­sid­ered wrestling be­fore his fresh­man year, Spellings proved a quick learner on the mat, work­ing his way up from a be­gin­ner to one of four team cap­tains dur­ing his se­nior cam­paign.

Spellings said he never put much thought into a col­le­giate wrestling ca­reer un­til re­ceiv­ing in­ter­est from Crutch­mer and OBU.

“I think one of the rea­sons it shocked me so much and made me think about OBU so much is be­cause I didn’t think that was me,” he said. “I didn’t think I would have an op­por­tu­nity to wres­tle at the next level. You see the guys on TV from the Big 12, and they are ab­so­lute mon­sters. I’m not one of those guys.

“On self eval­u­a­tion, I have worked hard enough, and I feel like I de­serve this. I’m re­ally blessed with the op­por­tu­nity, and I’m just go­ing to go out there and give it all I’ve got.”

Leav­ing Lake­side as a top-five in­di­vid­ual fin­isher and help­ing lead the Rams to top-three team fin­ishes as a ju­nior and se­nior, Spellings al­ready has his sights set on even more with the Tigers.

“Our goals are go­ing to be to come up on the na­tional stage and com­pete well,” Spellings said. “Any­thing is pos­si­ble from there. We have a big fresh­men class com­ing in, and I know ev­ery­body is ex­cited. We’re go­ing to get af­ter it and see what we can do.”

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