Four NCAA Div. III championships
TUCSON, ARIZ.—Freshman pitcher Kelsey Stender (Belle Plaine, Minn.) retired 16 of the first 17 batters she faced and the Central College softball team made efficient use of its three hits to score a 5-0 win over Trinity University (Texas) in the Tucson Invitational Games Thursday.
The Dutch (8-4) then coasted to a 10-2, five-inning triumph over Chatham University (Pa.), for their seventh straight victory.
Central jumped on Trinity (8-8) for five runs in the first two innings, aided by two Trinity errors and four wild pitches. Right fielder Emily Te Brink (senior, Le Mars) had hits in both frames and first baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS) had an RBI single in the second inning. The Dutch stole four bases in the two innings.
“We were very aggressive offensively,” coach George Wares said. “You can say that they made mistakes that gave us some help but it was our aggressiveness that forced some of those mistakes.”
That proved pivotal because Trinity hurler Sydney Friday allowed only two baserunners in the final five innings, both on walks.
“Give Friday credit,” Wares said. “She settled in and threw really well. It was just fortunate for us that we had five runs before she settled in.”
Meanwhile Stender (2-2) posted Central’s fourth consecutive shutout and extended the team’s scoreless innings streak to 28. She allowed only one hit in the first five innings, then pitched around a pair of sixth-inning singles before notching her first collegiate shutout. Stender struck out two and walked none.
“You can’t say that it was easy but it seemed like it was easy because there weren’t a lot of hard-hit balls,” Wares said. “And whenever you have a shutout, you usually need to have your defense make a few ‘Oh, wow’ plays and we got those, particularly on the diving catch by Emily Te Brink.
“It seems like we’re getting better and better in the circle but also better and better defensively. That combo is a big reason we’re winning.”
Rhianna Fleetwood (senior, Sycamore, Ill.) made her first pitching appearance since being hit by a line drive Saturday at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Georgia. She gave up a pair of first-inning runs to Chatham, then threw a scoreless second inning before leaving the game.
“We wanted to give Rhianna a couple of innings,” Wares said. “She wasn’t very sharp but it’s going to take some time to come back after getting hit like she did. Our goal is that by the time we get to St. Louis (March 23-24) that she’s closer to throwing the way she’s capable.”
Freshman Courtney Meyer (Newton) got the win with three innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits with no walks and one strikeout, raising her record to 2-0.
After yielding the two first-inning runs, the Dutch quickly established control over Chatham (0-7) with eight first-inning tallies on seven hits, aided by three errors. Shorstop Annie Sarcone (junior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) had three hits, including a double, and scored two runs while second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS) had two hits and scored twice. The Dutch outhit Chatham, 12-7.
Wares was able to empty the bench in the contest.
“We’ve got a large squad and it was good to let almost everybody get some time,” he said. “The good thing is we were able to keep the game relatively clean. Sometimes when you substitute a lot the game gets a little sloppy. I didn’t want it to end up 13-8.”
Central continues its hectic week by taking on a pair of formidable opponents Friday, meeting Dickinson (Pa.) at 11 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) and Concordia (Texas) at 1:30 p.m.
“Dickinson has a very good pitcher and Concordia is very similar to the other Texas teams we’ve seen, and maybe a notch better,” Wares said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to make some noise. It’s early but these games are pretty big ones.”