Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA — Pitcher Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) turned in another promising performance as the No. 12-ranked Central College softball team held off No. 23 Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) 3-2 before outscoring St. Scholastica (Minn.) 9-3 in the home-season debut for the Dutch Saturday.
Smith carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning when a fly ball was lost in the sun and had the Bears (16-9) shutout until the seventh, when they strung together three of their four hits and scored twice. Smith improved to 5-0, yielding four hits and a walk while striking out five.
“She was really good,” coach George Wares said. “With Mallory (Schulenberg) (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) getting through a little bit of an injury, Trish has given us a lot of quality innings and pitched extremely well.”
Central (14-4) was also limited to four hits off Washington ace Annie Pitkin, but took control with a three-run first inning in opening the northern portion of the schedule after 16 games last week in Arizona. Catcher Katie Canney (junior, Adel, ADM HS) delivered a two-run, two-out single and third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown) added a run-scoring hit.
“Pitkin is legit,” Wares said. “She’s a very good pitcher. But I liked the way our hitters stayed disciplined and didn’t chase pitches out of the zone. That’s what you have to do against a quality pitcher if you’re going to have any chance of being successful.”
Sowers, who leads the Dutch offense with a scorching .563 mark and a .621 on-base percentage, also sparkled in the field in knocking down some shots at third base and helping start a pair of double plays against St. Scholastica.
“I can’t imagine there’s a third baseman in the country playing any better right now,” Wares said. “When you look at the plays she’s making, you start to think of Donell Hotze (a 2000 Central grad and the NFCA Division III player of the year her senior season) and that’s quite a compliment. She’s fearless. Some of the plays you take for granted with her are way beyond average.”
St. Scholastica (6-8) struck first in the nightcap with a run in the opening frame. But Central erupted for a seven-run second inning. First baseman Kaitlyn Matzen (junior, Manly, Central Springs HS) doubled home two runs, center fielder Paige Heesch (junior, Titonka, WCLT HS) had an RBI hit through the right side, second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) lined a two-run double over a drawn-in outfield and left fielder Jordan Overland (senior, Boone) had an RBI hit. Overland had a team-high three hits on the day and scored twice, upping her season average to .358.
St. Scholastica cut the margin with a run in the top of the sixth inning but Central came back with two in the bottom half of the inning. Senior shortstop Annie Sarcone (Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) ripped a run-scoring double to left-center, giving her a team-high seven doubles and 23 RBIs in 18 games. Designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS) drove in a run with a deep fly to right field.
Central outhit St. Scholastica 10-6. Schulenberg improved to 5-3, yielding one earned run on three hits and three walks in 5.2 innings while fanning four. She struggled a bit with her control in the first inning before settling down.
“I thought she got better as the game went along,” Wares said. “If there’s one thing St. Scholastica really does well, it’s swing the bat. They had a day in Florida when they swept Cortland State (N.Y.) and Simpson, so they obviously can score. But I thought Mallory took some steps against them today.”
Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) closed it out, allowing a run on three hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. She struck out one.
A busy home weekend continues Sunday with a doubleheader against Augsburg (Minn.) at 1 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. Central defeated the Auggies in Tucson, Ariz. March 19, 11-0 in five innings. Augsburg (3-13) was swept by Dubuque at Indianola Saturday, 7-1 and 5-4 in eight innings, forcing extra innings in the nightcap with a 2-run seventh.
“I’m a little concerned because there’s supposed to be a pretty strong wind blowing out,” Wares said. “Augsburg went eight innings with Dubuque today and I’m sure will play better than they did in Arizona. As coaches, we’ve got to make sure the players realize it’s not going be as easy as it was out there.”
Central then takes on NCAA Division III tournament contender Wis.-Eau Claire at home Monday in another 1 p.m. twinbill.
A video webcast and live stats for Central’s games will be available through www.central.edu/athletics.