Four NCAA Div. III championships
COLUMBUS, GA.— It was a day of frustration for the Central College softball team at the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic.
Piedmont College (Ga.) pushed its record to 10-1 by holding off the Dutch 2-1 Saturday morning. Then Cortland State (N.Y.) took advantage of some Central miscues, then stifled a frantic Dutch rally for a 7-5 decision Saturday evening.
That forces Central (1-3) to come back on short rest for an 8 a.m. Sunday contest with St. John Fisher (N.Y.). Losing an hour of sleep because of the changeover to Daylight Savings Time is yet another hurdle the Dutch will need to overcome. Central will finish play in the tourney with another game later Sunday.
In the opener with Piedmont College (Ga.), Central got a dominant five innings from pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) but the damage was done in the first frame. Piedmont (10-1) used three hits and a wild pitch to plate a pair of runs. Schulenberg (0-1) allowed just one hit the rest of the way. She walked one and struck out two.
It was the first collegiate loss for Schulenberg, who was 10-0 as a freshman.
“Mallory threw well,” coach George Wares said. “It’s ironic that her first collegiate loss was actually one of her better efforts, especially after the first inning. She definitely kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win it late.”
Central was also got its run in the third inning. Second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS) beat out an infield hit, stole second and scored on a two-out double by sophomore third baseman Whitney Sowers (Marshalltown). The Dutch loaded the bases in the fifth but couldn’t capitalize.
Sowers extended her torrid start by reaching base in all three plate appearances with two hits and a walk. She also saved a run by making a dazzling stab of a two-out line drive in the sixth inning.
The nightcap was a wild affair. Central jumped on top when pitcher Rhianna Fleetwood (senior, Sycamore, Ill.) made her first plate appearance of the season and delivered a two-out single in the second inning to give the Dutch a 2-0 lead. But Cortland State (2-2) answered with a home run to lead off the bottom of the frame and tied the score with an unearned tally.
Fleetwood had to leave the game after a line drive deflected off her glove and hit her mouth. Brie Haycraft (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) threw a pair of scoreless innings in relief and Central regained the lead in the fourth inning when Fleetwood re-entered, walked and scored on an error.
But after Cortland State led off the fifth with a double and an error, freshman Kelsey Stender (Belle Plaine, Minn.) replaced Fleetwood. But two hits, a walk and two errors later, the Red Dragons had struck for five runs and a 7-3 lead.
Still Central battled. Right fielder Emily Te Brink (senior, Le Mars) bunted for a single in the 6th inning, stole second and scored on an RBI hit by first baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS).
Then Central loaded the bases in the seventh, using a walk, two hits and an error to make it 7-5, before hitting into a game-ending double play.
Both teams had nine hits but combined for seven errors, including four by Central, although Wares was most critical of mistakes he said he made.
The Dutch have lost three games by a combined four runs and need to learn how to close out games, he added.
“We’ve got to grow and get better at that,” he said.
Updates for Sunday’s games will be available on Twitter @CentralDutch.