Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA — Catcher Katie Canney (junior, Adel, ADM HS) and the Central College softball team weren’t giving up.
A pair of seventh-inning runs gave No. 9 Coe College a 5-3 win Tuesday that all but ended No. 12 Central’s Iowa Conference title hopes. But Canney, after going hitless in game one and reaching the edge of the warning track in the fifth inning of the nightcap, didn’t miss her chance in the seventh, hammering a 1-0 pitch deep over the left-field fence for a 2-1 walkoff triumph.
“In the at-bat before, she just missed a home run,” coach George Wares said. “She just got underneath it and you could tell when it left it was a little too high. But on this one (in the seventh), she got all of it. There was no doubt. It was good for her and good for our seniors, good for all of us. It was just nice to get a win like that.”
While Coe (31-6 overall, 9-3 conference) took command of the league race with the opening win, game two had plenty of significance for the Dutch, who are battling for a high seed in the conference tournament as well as a potential berth in the NCAA Division III tourney. The split puts Central at 28-8 overall and 8-4 in the league, part of a four-way tie for second place.
“We didn’t talk about that, but I think our players know,” Wares said. “And to bounce back and win it in that fashion—we needed that.”
A Central sweep would have put the Dutch in first place and they made a strong bid in the two-hour, 28-minute opener, grabbing a 3-1 second-inning lead on the fifth homer of the year for first baseman Kaitlyn Matzen (junior, Manly, Central Springs HS). But Coe tied it in the fourth inning. Then with one out in the seventh, the Kohawks got a pair of infield hits. Pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) came back with a strikeout before issuing an intentional walk to load the bases. But Schulenberg was shouldering a huge load—she threw a season-high 143 pitches--and fell behind the next hitter 3-0.
“Mallory pitched pretty well,” Wares said. “We probably should have taken her out of the game earlier, throwing that many pitches.”
Wares made the unconventional move of bringing in reliever Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS), knowing one more ball would bring home the lead run.
“What a tough spot to put Brie in,” he admitted. “But I felt really confident that she could come in and throw three strikes and she almost did it.”
But after two strikes and a couple of foul balls, Haycraft gave up ball four. Coe added a run on an error.
Schulenberg (11-5) allowed nine hits and walked a season-high seven batters, although three were intentional. She struck out six and forced Coe to strand 14 baserunners.
Central had seven hits, including two each by Matzen and designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS).
The Dutch made a quick recovery, getting on the board in the first inning of the nightcap as left fielder Jordan Overland (senior, Boone) stretched a slap hit to left into a double and raced home on a single up the middle by shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS). Coe tied it in the second inning, but pitcher Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) blanked the Kohawks the rest of the way. Smith (12-2) yielded just four hits, walking two—one intentionally--and striking out seven.
“I really liked our composure after Coe tied it,” Wares said. “We really haven’t had a lot of games that were 0-0 or 1-1 most of the way, where every pitch might determine the game. We had one today and we handled it very well. I thought Trish Smith pitched really well.”
Central had seven hits, with two each from Canney and third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown), who continues to progress in her recovery from injury.
The Dutch complete the league season with a doubleheader at the University of Dubuque Saturday at 2 p.m. The Spartans, 21-11 overall, are one of the league’s most improved clubs.
“Dubuque is very good,” Wares said. “They swept Luther, that tells you enough right there. And their losses to Coe were 3-2 and 4-1. They have a quality team. We can’t let up or it will be a tough day there.”
But Wares is grateful his club will be making the trip with a burst of enthusiasm following the dramatic Senior Day win.
“You want the seniors to go out with a good game,” Wares said. “We could possibly still host a regional, but if this was the last game of their careers on this field, it was nice to end it that way.”