Four NCAA Div. III championships
COLUMBUS, GA.— Putting yet another stomach-churning defeat behind it, the Central College softball team left little suspense in the victorious finale of its six-game appearance at the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic Sunday.
The Dutch saw a 4-2 seventh-inning lead melt away in a 6-4 setback against St. John Fisher (N.Y.) early Sunday morning. But late Sunday afternoon Central made quick work of Mississippi College with an 8-0, five-inning whitewashing.
Back on the field less than 10 hours after surrendering a late lead in a 7-5 loss to No. 23 Cortland State (N.Y.) Saturday night, the Dutch endured more of the same against St. John Fisher (3-6).
After yielding a run in the top of the first, freshman pitcher Kelsey Stender (Belle Plaine, Minn.) was rock solid until late. She retired 10 hitters in order and struck out nine batters. She gave up a run in the fifth but still took a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning, only to surrender a game-tying 2-run homer. After the next batter singled, Wares then called on Brie Haycraft (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) to halt the onslaught, but on a base hit to right field the throw back to the infield struck the second base umpire. The lead baserunner, who had stopped at third base, instead sprinted home with the go-ahead run. A run-scoring double followed to cap a 4-run frame.
Earlier Central appeared to break out of its funk with a 4-run fourth inning. Third baseman Whitney Sowers (sophomore, Marshalltown) had a one-out single and stole second. After a hit batter, catcher Caitlyn Meyer (senior, Newton) lined a run-scoring single and left fielder Jordan Overland (junior, Madrid, Boone HS) followed with an RBI infield hit to tie the game. Then pinch-hitter Karlee Rock (sophomore, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS) ripped a full-count pitch for a 2-run hit and the lead.
Sowers also had a hit in the sixth but that was the only other safety for the Dutch as Central was outhit, 10-5. Stender (1-2) was charged with six runs on eight hits with one walk.
“It’s always hard to lose but particularly when you look at all the losses we’ve had; we had a chance to win every game,” coach George Wares said. “(The St. John Fisher game) typified the weekend we had.
“But you have to be really happy with the way we played for six innings. The at-bats that Sowers had, and Rock coming off the bench for a key hit were big. And obviously Stender’s performance was very, very good. In hindsight, we probably should have taken her out of the game before the seventh, but give St. John Fisher credit for coming back.”
The Dutch finally erupted against Mississippi College (3-12). Right fielder Emily Te Brink (senior, Le Mars), after a bumpy start in the first five games, had two singles and a double in three at-bats and scored three runs. Sowers also had three hits and continues to sizzle. She’s hitting a scorching .611 through six games.
“Whitney is playing with the kind of personality we want to see,” Wares said. “You’d like to see that rub off on the other players.”
Te Brink scored the first of Central’s two runs in the first inning, another in the third and scored again in a four-run uprising in the fourth inning. That frame was highlighted by a two-run single to right field by second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS).
In the fifth the Dutch ended the contest with a run-scoring shot by first baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS). She knocked home back-up catcher Dana Van Renterghem (sophomore, Oskaloosa), who was giving a break to starter Caitlyn Meyer. Meyer is still feeling the effects of off-season surgery. Van Renterghem was an impressive 2-for-2 with a single and a double, her first collegiate hits. More importantly to Wares, she proved capable behind the plate.
“Dana stepped in and showed that she can do what we need her to do against this caliber of a team,” he said.
Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) tossed a five-inning, two-hit shutout to even her record at 1-1. She walked two hitters—one intentionally—and struck out five.
“Mallory was consistent all weekend,” Wares said. “She’s clearly the most consistent pitcher we have right now.”
Unfortunately, the Dutch were without one of their other hurlers Sunday, as Rhianna Fleetwood (senior, Sycamore, Ill.) spent the day resting at the team’s hotel as a precautionary measure after getting hit by a line drive Saturday night.
The Dutch fly cross country to Tucson, Ariz. Monday and begin a 10-game set in the Tucson Invitational Games Tuesday. Central will meet Sul Ross State (Texas) at 11 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) and Edgewood (Wis.) at 1:30 p.m. Updates throughout both games can be followed at www.twitter.com at @CentralDutch.
While a 2-4 start is not what the Dutch had hoped for, it’s also not totally surprising, Wares said, given the elite nature of the teams competing in the Georgia tourney. And he knows the road ahead is equally daunting.
“We as coaches have been through this kind of thing before,” he said. “But most of the players haven’t and you worry about their confidence. But in the second game today, I think we started elevating it to where it needs to be.”