Butler tosses first perfect game in OBU history
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.”