2012 Iowa Conference champions
TUCSON, ARIZ.—Senior designated hitter Robbie Rushing (West Des Moines, Valley HS) finished 3-for-6 with four runs batted in and a single shy of a cycle as the Central College baseball team closed out its spring trip in style with a 12-9 win over Hamline University (Minn.) Thursday at the Kino Sports Complex.
Serving as the Tucson Invitational Games opener for the Pipers (2-1), the Dutch (8-3) scored five runs in the first inning and lead the rest of the way in the three-run victory.
“We did a great job competing all nine innings,” coach Adam Stevens said. “We had an early lead, but a lead is never safe against a quality team like Hamline. We were able to tack on a run here and run there, which proved to be the difference.”
Senior catcher Jace Ahrendsen (Clarence, North Cedar HS) opened the scoring with a two-RBI single in the opening frame. Junior outfielder Zach Zylstra (Pella) matched that feat in the next at-bat, followed by an RBI single by senior outfielder Jake Effron (Glendale, Ariz., North Pointe Prep HS). The handful of runs chased Hamline’s starting pitcher Eickman from the game after retiring only two Dutch batters.
“Eickman is one of their top pitchers and we knocked him out of the game early,” Stevens said. “We came out ready to play. They made a run and closed the gap, but we pushed through and kept them at bay.”
Central added another run in the second on Rushing’s triple.
The Pipers got on the board in the fourth with two runs, but the Dutch responded in the fifth with RBI singles from Effron and senior shortstop Jordan Judkins (Marshalltown). Hamline scored four unanswered in the sixth and seventh to draw within two, but Rushing pushed the Central lead to four runs with a two-run home run with no outs in the eighth.
The Pipers scored two in the eighth to cut it to a pair once again, but a RBI groundout by senior second baseman Adam Ariola (Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS) and a RBI double by Rushing in the top of the ninth was enough for the Dutch to hold on. Rushing is batting .510 (25-for-49) through 11 games this season with three home runs and 20 RBIs.
Judkins and Zylstra finished with three hits apiece as well, while Ahrendsen, Effron and junior third baseman Kirby Coppess (Urbandale) each had two hits. Ahrendsen, Zylstra and Effron each tallied two RBIs, while Ariola scored three runs.
“We swung the bat well the entire trip,” said Stevens. “I was happy with the offense again today. We’re hitting well throughout the entire order.”
Sophomore pitcher Dakotah Wolken (Dillon, East Marshall HS) allowed six runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 6.0 innings for the win. He improved to 3-0 on the young season with the result. Senior pitcher Judson McKown (Independence, Minn., Orono HS) once again shut the door with a three up, three down ninth inning. Sophomore pitcher Mark Schroeder (Chariton) pitched 1.2 innings in relief, helping get the ball to McKown, who sports a 1.89 ERA in 19.0 innings this season after notching his third save.
“We weren’t quite as sharp defensively, but our pitchers did a great job working out of jams,” said Stevens. “Dakotah had another quality start today and kept a good offensive team off balance. Mark came in with the bases loaded and one out and allowed only one run, which was great. Our entire bullpen was spectacular today.”
Central committed two errors defensively and left 11 runners on base, while Hamline also made two errors and left seven on base.
With the Tucson Invitational Games behind them, the Dutch return home for Wednesday’s game against Grinnell College (4-2). The Pioneers, who took two of three from Central in the opening weekend series, are playing in Orlando until Sunday.
“It was a good trip for us,” Stevens said. “We learned a lot about our team. We’re a competitive group and that’s how we want to play. The most important day of the year is Monday, when we get back to practice and start working on some things again.”