Four NCAA Div. III championships
TUCSON, ARIZ.—On a hot day in Arizona, Central College’s softball pitching staff cooled off streaking Texas Lutheran, 4-0, and Marian (Wis.), 8-0 in five innings, extending its string of scoreless innings to 21 at the Tucson Invitational Games Wednesday.
Texas Lutheran was riding a 10-game winning streak but Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) tossed a two-hit shutout. Schulenberg (2-1) walked none, struck out two and didn’t even allow a runner past first base until one reached on an error in the seventh inning, on a day when temperatures neared 90 degrees.
“Since the first game of the Leadoff Classic, Mallory has been getting ahead of hitters much more consistently,” coach George Wares said. “And she’s throwing with above-average speed. Even in the seventh inning, she was throwing with tremendous velocity.
“She’s pitching with a lot of confidence. She obviously worked very hard in the off-season to get herself in shape and has really bought into doing work in the weight room. She’s a lot stronger and that’s helped her endurance.”
Brie Haycraft (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) scattered four hits in four innings against Marian, evening her record at 1-1. She also struck out two and walked none. Then Courtney Meyer (freshman, Newton) made her collegiate pitching debut in the final inning. She allowed a single but struck out the other three hitters.
“I thought Brie was pretty sharp,” Wares said. “In the first inning she started 1-0 and 2-0 a lot but after that she was a lot better. When she locates the ball she’s better able to use her off-speed pitches and she needs to do that to be effective.
“And I thought Courtney Meyer had a good debut. She’s so much different than Brie that it made it really difficult for the Marian hitters to adjust.”
Second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS) sparked the Dutch offense with five hits, five RBIs and four runs scored in the two games as she sent her season average to .469. She was on base six times. Shortstop Annie Sarcone (junior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) continued to regain her offensive form with three hits, including a double, and right fielder Emily Te Brink (senior, Le Mars) drove in three runs and was on base three times.
The Dutch struck for three runs in the first inning against Texas Lutheran.
“Anytime you score early it helps,” Wares said. “Obviously it takes a little pressure off the defense and that’s important especially against a team that’s been on a roll like Texas Lutheran. I hope that’s a sign that our hitters are getting on track.”
Getting Strajack on base like she was Wednesday usually kick-starts the Dutch offense, Wares said.
“I think she’s as good as any leadoff hitter around,” he said. “She’s very good at the one-handed bunt, she can hit with some power and she’s good at just chopping the ball into the ground for a hit, which is effective on hard fields like the ones here. She’s the one that makes it all go, especially when Emily Te Brink is doing well behind her like she is now. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Central takes on Trinity University (Texas) Thursday at 11 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) and Chatham University (Pa.). Trinity is 7-7 but figures to be one of the strongest opponents Central will see this week. The two teams meet again Saturday. Chatham is 0-6.
“Trinity’s record is misleading,” Wares said. “They’ve played a very difficult schedule. We had a very intense, competitive game against them last year. They’re very athletic and have solid pitching. The game will be a challenge, much like today was. I’m happy with the way we responded today but we have to step it up one more notch to do what we need to do against Trinity.”
Photo courtesy of Scott Haycraft