Four NCAA Div. III championships
CEDAR RAPIDS—This time the Dutch closed the deal.
After seeing a pair of sixth-inning leads slip away against No. 5 Luther College Saturday, the No. 8 Central College softball team rebounded in a big way by taking early leads and never taking the foot off the gas in kncoking off No. 3 Coe College 9-6 and 5-2 Wednesday night.
“It’s impressive for a team to bounce back that quickly, particularly against a quality opponent,” coach George Wares said.
Shortstop Annie Sarcone (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) had a monster day with six hits in seven at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring four. She belted her seventh home run of the year and her eighth double. Central banged out 21 hits in the two games.
"She’s been swinging it well,” Wares said.
Meanwhile pitcher Brie Haycraft (sophomore, Eldridge, North Scott HS) served as the team closer in both contests, and recorded two saves with some scoreless relief.
The Dutch (19-5 overall, 2-2 Iowa Conference) struck quickly in the opener thanks in part to an uncharacteristic rocky start by Coe all-American hurler Ashlee Simon, who hit a batter, then walked three straight before being relieved. She returned later in the game but the Dutch went on to bat around and score four runs in the inning. Coe (22-4 overall, 2-2 conference) answered with three in the bottom of the first, which was an equally unusual frame. The Kohawks got two runs on a sacrifice fly with the benefit of an error, and added another run when an illegal pitch was called. But Central erupted for four more runs in the second inning for an 8-3 lead.
Right fielder Emily Te Brink (junior, Le Mars) had two-run singles in both innings for Central. She had three hits and five RBIs on the day.
“Emily has been giving us quality at bats,” Wares said. “Even when she’s made outs, she’s battled.”
Coe got as close as 8-6 in the fifth inning but Sarcone’s seventh-inning homer gave the Dutch the extra cushion and Haycraft pitched 1.1 innings of hitless relief to nail down the win.
Pitcher Rhianna Fleetwood (junior, Sycamore, Ill.) improved to 6-2, yielding four earned runs on 10 hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
The Dutch rode a quality outing from freshman pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) in the nightcap. She limited Coe to one hit in the first five innings before yielding a two-out walk and a home run in the bottom of the sixth. Haycraft then entered and got the final four outs, giving up one hit in the seventh.
Central took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Te Brink’s run-scoring hit, then added two tallies in the top of the sixth. Left fielder Rachael Everingham (senior, Georgetown, Ill., Georgetown-Ridge Farm HS) had two hits and an RBI in the game.
Schulenberg, now 8-0, allowed two hits in 5.2 innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
“That’s not surprising to us,” Wares said. “She’s shown a lot of ability. I thought she was really sharp today. She gave us a huge lift. And I thought the team really responded behind her.”
Wares liked the effort from all three Central pitchers.
“I was really happy with how Brie came in to close out both games and I thought Rhianna pitched well in tough circumstances,” he said.
But after a Wednesday night return to Pella, the Dutch must continue the season’s toughest stretch by taking on traditional NCAA Division III tourney contender Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) Thursday at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. After 24 games, it’s the home opener for Central. The Bears are 15-7 and are making a three-day trip to Iowa, with a tourney at Grinnell College Friday and Saturday.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy but clearly winning two today helps,” Wares said. “Plus the players are excited about finally playing at home.”
A video webcast of the games can be accessed at www.central.edu/athletics. Veteran Washington-St. Louis sports information director Chris Mitchell will call the play-by-play.