Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA — After an opening-game stumble, the Central College softball team hopes it regained its footing at the NCAA Division III Pella, Iowa Regional Friday.
Fifth-seeded Wis.-River Falls (31-13) dominated the Dutch 6-0, forcing Central (36-9) to come back in an elimination game in which it ousted the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.), 10-2.
That sends Central to a 2 p.m. game Saturday against an opponent to be determined. No. 1 seed Luther meets third-seeded St. Thomas (Minn.) in a 10 a.m. game, while Wis.-River Falls meets fourth-seeded Coe at noon. If Luther defeats St. Thomas, the Dutch will meet the loser of the Wis.-River Falls vs. Coe matchup. If St. Thomas tops Luther, Central takes on the Tommies.
Regardless, the Dutch need a victory to continue playing Sunday.
“Now it’s just a matter of finding a way to win,” coach George Wares said.
With the wind blowing out to left field, pitcher Rhianna Fleetwood (junior, Sycamore, Ill.) saw her 22-inning scoreless streak end after a just a couple of pitches as leadoff hitter Hayley Buchanan belted a leadoff homer for Wis.-River Falls. It was all the Falcons needed as pitcher Rose Tusa threw a perfect game for 4.2 innings before Dutch left fielder Rachael Everingham (senior, Georgetown, Ill., Georgetown-Ridge Farm HS) lined a single to right field.
Fleetwood (16-3) gave up two runs on four hits with two walks before being lifted with one out in the second inning. Brie Haycraft (sophomore, Eldridge, North Scott HS) followed and was charged with four runs on five hits in 2.1 innings with no walks and one strikeout. Freshman Mallory Schulenberg (Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) threw the final 3.1 innings, giving up four hits but no runs with no walks and three strikeouts.
Tusa finished with a three-hitter.
“She was very good,” Wares said. “That’s why she’s the two-time player of the year in their conference.
“I thought we did not play well and they played very well and that leads to a 6-0 loss.”
Central rebounded quickly against St. Scholastica with four runs in the first two innings, although the performance was a bit ragged as the Dutch gave up eight hits and committed three errors. But Central pounded 15 hits and was in firm command most of the way.
Abbey Strajack (freshman, Davenport, Assumption HS) had four hits and broke the school freshman season hits record with 54, topping the standard of 53 set by Alysha Overturf in 2006.
The Dutch got three hits from second baseman Angela Davis (senior, West Des Moines, Valley HS), and two from first baseman Jordan Overland (sophomore, Madrid, Boone HS) and third baseman Whitney Sowers (freshman, Marshalltown).
Schulenberg (10-0) threw the first four innings, giving up a run on two hits with two walks and a strikeout. Haycraft followed, allowing a run on six hits with one walk and no strikeouts in three innings.
“We just tried to survive,” Wares said. “Hopefully, the rest now will give the players new life and they’ll realize that what we have to do is not that much different than what we had to do in the Iowa Conference tournament.
“We’re just happy that we get a chance to play again tomorrow.”