Four NCAA Div. III championships
STORM LAKE — A road-weary Central College softball team yielded 20 runs in two games but averted disaster by clawing its way back to an Iowa Conference doubleheader split at Buena Vista Wednesday, getting outscored 15-7 in five innings before rallying for a 9-5 decision.
But any relief generated by the second-game comeback was dampened by a first-game injury to the team’s sparkplug, third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown), who was on a path to all-America status. Sowers, who was hitting a steamy .543 with 22 RBIs and five home runs and was one of the team’s top defensive players as well, was injured making a tag at third base. While the extent of the injury is not yet known, coach George Wares said she’s out indefinitely.
“You don’t like to see anyone get hurt, but it’s really hard to see it happen to someone like Whitney, who works so hard and has done absolutely everything to get herself ready,” Wares said. “Obviously, this affects our team. This is a blow.”
She was replaced by freshman Abbie Voas (freshman, Chanhassen, Minn.), who struggled a bit defensively in the most extended action of her young career, but provided the No. 11 Dutch (24-6 overall, 4-2 conference) a much-needed offensive lift in the second game. Trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning, Voas delivered a three-run homer to left-center, which was followed by a solo shot from shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS), her fifth, to highlight a six-run inning. The Dutch added two runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to hold off the Beavers (11-13 overall, 3-3 conference).
“Give our players credit,” Wares said. “We were down 3-0, and while Abbie is not Whitney, that was a huge home run for us.”
Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) emerged with the victory. Schulenberg (9-4), gave up four earned runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) picked up her second save, throwing 1.1 innings of hitless relief with no walks and one strikeout.
“Brie did a good job of closing it,” Wares said. “She’s probably been our most consistent pitcher lately, in terms of expectations.”
The opener quickly took a nasty turn after Central grabbed a 1-0 lead. Buena Vista erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the first, adding two in the second inning and five in the third. Pitcher Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton), who has shouldered a heavy load in a remarkable breakout season, had an uncharacteristic outing, giving up 11 earned runs on 13 hits in just 2.2 innings in suffering her first loss, slipping to 10-1.
“She’s just worn out,” Wares said. “She needs to get some rest.”
That could be said for her teammates as well, who have played eight games in five days, with back-to-back trips to Decorah and Storm Lake.
Haycraft yielded three additional earned runs on four hits in 1.2 innings.
“We just weren’t very good in the circle,” said Wares, who was disappointed in his club’s defense as well. Central committed four errors on the day.
The Dutch got three hits in the two games from second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS), left fielder Jordan Overland (senior, Boone), Sarcone, right fielder Sarah Bowen (freshman, New Sharon, North Mahaska HS) and first baseman Kaitlyn Matzen (junior, Manly, Central Springs HS). Matzen produced her fourth homer of the year in the opener.
Central gets a couple of days to recover before a home league twinbill with Loras College, Saturday at 2 p.m. The Duhawks are 13-13 overall and 1-5 in the league after splitting with Wartburg Wednesday. Live stats and a video webcast will be available through www.central.edu/athletics. The game will also be broadcast by KRLS-FM (92.1) with sportscaster Trevor Castle.
“We need rest but we also need some practice time,” Wares said. With weather issues and the heavy schedule, the Dutch have had just a few outdoor practices all season.
Saturday will be Central’s annual Alumni Day, with Dutch softball alumni gathering with the team after the games.