Four NCAA Div. III championships
DUBUQUE — Central College catcher Caitlyn Meyer (senior, Newton) is making up for lost time.
After missing the final 19 games of the 2012 season to injury and enduring a lengthy rehab for two surgeries, the four-year starter is on a rampage, swatting a pair of home runs to power the No. 25 Dutch softball team to an Iowa Conference sweep at Loras College Sunday. Central (20-5 overall, 4-0 conference) triumphed 5-3 in eight innings and 8-0 in five innings, stretching the squad’s winning streak to 11 games.
Meyer has 10 hits in 15 at-bats in her last four games. Sunday she rescued the Dutch with a solo home run in the eighth inning of the opener. For the second time in three games, Central yielded a game-tying 2-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. But Meyer untied the game to lead off the eighth inning and the Dutch added an insurance run to make a winner of pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS).
In the third inning of the nightcap, Meyer delivered a 2-run shot, her fourth homer of the season. She also knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice, giving her four RBIs on the day.
For the week, she hit .667 with a double, three homers, three runs scored, eight RBIs and a slugging percentage of 1.333. Her season batting average soared to .379.
“She’s seeing it well and hitting it well,” coach George Wares said. “For her to come back with the home run in the eighth inning of the first game was obviously big.”
That’s a welcome development for Wares, who had to do an unexpected lineup overhaul. Second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS), the team’s leading hitter with a .429 mark, and starting left fielder Jordan Overland (junior, Madrid, Boone HS) were injured in the first two innings of Wednesday’s sweep of Simpson College at Indianola and are out indefinitely.
But the rebuilt lineup generated 17 hits. Heidi Reburn (senior, New Albin, Kee HS) took over in left field and had three hits and scored two runs in the opener, then scored another run in the nightcap.
“She’s doing what she needs to do,” Wares said. “She’s staying within herself and just putting the ball in play, which allows her to use her speed. She’s improved a lot offensively, as has (center fielder) Paige Heesch (sophomore, Titonka, WCLT HS).”
Meanwhile Courtney Meyer (freshman, Newton) and Chelsea Greiner (junior, Agency, Cardinal HS) shared the duties at second base. Greiner had a hit and two RBIs while Meyer added an RBI and drew two walks.
“I’ve got to give Chelsea Greiner a ton of credit for the way she played defensively,” Wares said. “She made one play that was way beyond average and almost made another that would have been spectacular. She’s really reading the ball off the bat well.”
And Wares inserted pitcher Rhianna Fleetwood (senior, Sycamore, Ill.), who has endured an injury-plagued season, into the designated player spot, a move that paid immediate dividends. She had three hits and an RBI.
“We knew she could hit,” Wares said. “We still want her to come back and pitch but right now, her being able to contribute at the plate is good for us and good for her. And that gives us a valuable pinch-hitter in Karlee Rock (sophomore, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS).”
Central also got three hits on the day from third baseman Whitney Sowers (sophomore, Marshalltown). Meanwhile, first baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS), who had two hits in the nightcap, hit .500 for the week and upped her average to .366.
The Dutch started slowly, yet combined two hits with two Loras errors for three runs in the second inning of the opener. But a Loras home run in the sixth and another in the seventh forced extra innings.
Schulenberg (9-1), threw seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts. That was sandwiched around an inning of relief by Brie Haycraft (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS), who gave up a run on one hit with no walks and one strikeout.
Haycraft also threw a less stressful final frame in the second game, allowing one hit but no runs. She followed Kelsey Stender (freshman, Belle Plaine, Minn.), who improved to 7-3, allowing a run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.
“Kelsey had a real good outing,” Wares said. “She had good velocity and kept the game under control.”
Central took command of the second game with a 6-run first inning, highlighted by 2-run doubles from Canney and shortstop Annie Sarcone (junior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS). Meyer’s homer made it 8-0 in the third inning. Dubuque’s run in the fifth forced another inning of play, but Central got its 8-run lead back following Greiner’s squeeze bunt in the sixth.
Wares said league road wins seldom come easily and today’s didn’t, either. But the Dutch also had to deal with the emotional hurdle of being without Strajack and Overland.
“I give the players a lot of credit,” he said. “Going through what we did in losing Caitlyn last year, they understand it can happen, but they saw we were still able to come back and have a good season without a key player. The difference this year is we hope we get both of them back before the end of the season.”
After 25 games, the Dutch will once more attempt to play their home opener, Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. They’ll take on an improved Buena Vista University squad which swept Wartburg College Saturday. The Beavers are 11-11 overall and 2-2 in the league. Central swept Buena Vista at Storm Lake last year, 4-2, 4-0.
A video webcast and live stats will be available through the Central athletics website at www.central.edu/athletics.