Four NCAA Div. III championships
TUCSON, ARIZ. — Getting encouraging debut performances from some new faces, including a two-run homer by junior transfer first baseman Katilyn Matzen (Manly, Central Springs HS), the No. 4-rated Central College softball team opened the 2014 campaign with a 14-0, five-inning whitewash of Dickinson (Pa.) and a 7-0 blanking of Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio) Friday.
Three Central pitchers combined on the shutouts. Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) got the opening win over Dickinson, allowing three hits with two walks and a strikeout over three innings. All-America honoree Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) was predictably sharp, facing the minimum 12 hitters in four innings against Baldwin-Wallace. She yielded one hit—which was effectively erased when the runner was picked off after rounding first base too aggressively—and no walks while fanning four.
But it was a pitcher up from last year’s junior varsity, sophomore Trisha Smith (New Hampton), who caught coach George Wares’ eye with five innings of shutout relief. She picked up her first collegiate save by throwing the final three innings of the nightcap and allowed three hits overall in the combined five frames, walking none and striking out seven.
“That was real encouraging,” Wares said. “If there was anyone who maybe played above what they’ve showed in practice so far, it was Trish. We as coaches always felt good about her ability. Today she did exactly what we wanted. It was nice that the score allowed her to get her first taste of varsity experience without the game being on the line. I thought she handled it well.”
Wares was obviously happy with the shutouts as well.
“I thought all three pitchers, for a day one performance, were pretty solid,” he said. “For the most part, they got ahead in counts and it gets easier after that.”
Central (2-0) quickly rid itself of any early season butterflies as the first nine Dutch batters scored in the first inning against Dickinson, albeit with some help from the Red Devils (2-8). Only two balls left the infield in the first inning and one was an out. But Central parlayed four hits, two walks and a hit batsman into a 9-0 lead. Shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) had a two-run single and an RBI groundout in the inning. Central finished with 10 hits in the five-inning game, including two from second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) and center fielder Paige Heesch (junior, Titonka, WCLT HS). Matzen singled in a run, brought home another after getting hit by a pitch, and scored three times in her bid for the first base job.
Sarcone singled home left fielder Jordan Overland (senior, Boone) in the first inning against Baldwin-Wallace. The Dutch broke it open with a six-run fourth inning, sparked by Matzen’s two-run homer, a line shot to left field. Designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS) had a two-run hit. Right fielder Lexi Cessna (senior, Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS), primarily a defensive replacement last year, is trying to stake a claim on a starting spot in 2014 and contributed a double and a single.
“I like what Lexi did at the plate,” he said. “If she continues to do that, it will be a real bonus.”
Strajack and third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown) each had two hits.
“It’s encouraging,” Wares said. “A lot of times you have two or three kids who hit really well. But I do think we have players from one through nine in the order who have things they did today that they came feel positive about. And people came off the bench and contributed as well. I thought Sarah Bowen (freshman, New Sharon, North Mahaska HS) had a good at-bat and Felicia Schulty (freshman, Wellman, Mid-Prairie HS) had a good at-bat against Baldwin-Wallace’s best pitcher.”
Central has a longer day Saturday, taking on Marian University (Wis.) at 11 a.m., before taking a game off and then returning against Crown College (Minn.) at 3:30 p.m. The Marian contest will be broadcast by KRLS-FM radio (92.1) and via www.kniakrls.com at 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Trevor Castle, making his first trip to the Tucson Invitaitonal Games, will call the action. Marian is 1-2 with a 9 a.m. Saturday game against Augsburg College (Minn.) before meeting Central. Crown took a 1-2 mark into Friday’s action.