Four NCAA Div. III championships
DECORAH—Traditionalists say there’s little advantage in trying to steal third base with two outs.
But a Central College softball tradition is daring baserunning and it led to a key fifth-inning run in a 2-0 Iowa Conference tournament win over Simpson College Thursday. Dutch pitcher Rhianna Fleetwood (junior, Sycamore, Ill.) did the rest, cooling off hard-hitting Simpson (28-14) with a two-hit shutout on an unseasonably steamy afternoon in Decorah.
No. 6-rated Central (32-7) advances to meet No. 19 Coe College (33-9) Friday in a 2 p.m. winners’ bracket game in the double-elimination tournament. The Kohawks surprised No. 4-ranked Luther College, the tourney’s top seed, 2-0, despite mustering just one hit. Fourth-seeded Coe earlier escaped Loras College 3-2 in eight innings.
Central was hitless for the first three innings, but third baseman Whitney Sowers (freshman, Marshalltown) drew a one-out walk in the fourth. Pinch-runner Chelsea Greiner (sophomore, Agency, Cardinal HS) raced to third on a double by shortstop Annie Sarcone (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS), then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by second baseman Angela Davis (senior, West Des Moines, Valley HS).
The Dutch got their key insurance tally in the fifth inning. First baseman Jordan Overland (sophomore, Madrid, Boone HS) beat out an infield hit with one out, moved to second on a ground ball, then got the two-out steal of third. The throw got away from the third baseman and Overland sprinted home to make it 2-0.
Simpson had hammered Buena Vista 9-1 in five innings earlier Friday, but Fleetwood (13-2) was dominant as temperatures reached 88 degrees. Simpson got singles in the first two innings before Fleetwood retired the final 18 batters she faced. The only walk she gave up was intentional and she struck out two.
“It was a great effort by Rhianna,” coach George Wares said. “She only threw 71 pitches, very efficient. (Simpson) had a couple chances early but we made some very good defensive plays and she got a couple of big strikeouts. She’s just pitching very well, with a lot of confidence.”
Central’s offense was also limited but Wares liked his team’s effort, particularly on defense.
“I think the players were very determined and focused on winning this game and getting to Saturday because we haven’t been there for a couple of years,” he said. “Whether we win this tournament or not, we want to go into the postseason with a lot of momentum.”
Trevor Castle will provide an audio webcast of Friday’s game through www.kniakrls.com.