Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA — Central College unleashed a 23-hit attack, including three home runs, in rolling past Wartburg College 9-1 in six innings and 8-0 in five, for an Iowa Conference softball sweep Saturday.
Catcher Katie Canney (junior, Adel, ADM HS) lined a three-run homer, her third, in a four-run second inning in the opener. She had three hits and five RBIs on the day. Shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) rocketed a monster shot over the left-field fence and onto the adjacent baseball field, her second homer of the season. And first baseman Kaitlyn Matzen (junior, Manly, Central Springs HS) ended the second game with her third homer, a solo shot to left field in the fifth inning.
“From top to bottom we’re pretty solid offensively,” coach George Wares said. “It was nice to do what we did. It was a business-like day.”
The No. 11 Dutch (20-4 overall, 2-0 conference) have reeled off nine straight victories and Wares edged closer to becoming the first coach in NCAA Division III history to post 1,000 wins. In his 30th season, Wares is 997-327-3 (.752) with four national titles and 25 Division III tourney berths.
After a five-day break, Central’s pitching staff was sharp. Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) shut out Wartburg for four innings but gave up Wartburg’s only run in the fifth before departing. Schulenberg (8-3) yielded three hits and two walks—one intentional—while striking out three.
“Mallory was better today,” Wares said. “I was disappointed with what happened in the fifth (inning) but overall she was really good.
The Dutch also got a lift from Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS), who squirmed free from a two-on, no-outs jam without further damage. She gave up one hit in two innings with no walks and a strikeout.
“I give Brie Haycraft a lot of credit,” Wares said. “She’s had limited opportunities but really gave us a big inning. She came in with runners on first and third, nobody out and a run already in, and got us out of it. That was a very good effort.”
Sophomore Trisha Smith (New Hampton) was even stingier, narrowly missing a five-inning perfect game. She lost a bloop hit in the sun in the fifth inning, with the ball landing in the back of the pitching circle for a base hit. That was the only baserunner against Smith (8-0), who struck out five and needed just 59 pitches to post her third shutout.
“She’s been pretty good even when she’s had to throw a lot of innings but she obviously showed today how tough she is when she’s fresh,” Wares said.
The Central staff was helped by the defense, which committed just one error on the day and turned a pair of double plays in the opener. Wares was especially impressed with a grab in the opener by third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown), who snagged a shot and fired to second base to start an inning-ending double play in the sixth.
“That was a huge play,” Wares said. “I don’t think people realize how good she is.”
Central got four hits on the day from second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS), who upped her average to .412. Sarcone had three hits and three RBIs. She’s batting .443 with 32 RBIs. Matzen also had three hits and is hitting .306. Designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS) had three hits with two runs scored and is batting .367. Sowers, who had two hits, continues to top the team hitting charts with a .561 mark.
But the Dutch have a lot of softball remaining in the next two days. They take on Webster (Mo.) Sunday at 2 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. The Gorloks are 6-10 after dropping 11-10 and 10-5 decisions at Iowa Wesleyan Saturday. Then Monday, Central will attempt to make up a key conference doubleheader at No. 5 Luther College at 3 p.m. The games were originally slated for last Tuesday, but field conditions were not yet playable at Decorah, which received additional snow early Friday.
Because of the Luther games, Central’s non-conference doubleheader with No. 17 St. Thomas (Minn.), originally scheduled for Monday, has been postponed until Monday, April 14 at 3 p.m. in Pella.
A video webcast and live stats of Central’s Sunday twinbill with Webster will be available via www.central.edu/athletics. An audio-only version of the webcast, featuring veteran play-by-play announcer Trevor Castle, can be accessed at www.kniakrls.com.