Four NCAA Div. III championships
DUBUQUE — Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) has thrown the fewest innings of anyone on the Central College softball pitching staff, but none was more valuable than the veteran hurler Saturday, as she made a pair of effective relief appearances to help the Dutch score an important road sweep at the University of Dubuque, winning 4-0 and 3-1.
DUBUQUE — Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) has thrown the fewest innings of anyone on the Central College softball pitching staff, but none was more valuable than the veteran hurler Saturday, as made a pair of relief appearances to help the Dutch score an important road sweep at the University of Dubuque, winning 4-0 and 3-1.
League tourney at Cedar Rapids--The teams entered the day as part of a four-way tie for second place in the Iowa Conference, but the sweep lets Central hang on to its share at 10-4 in wrapping up the league season. The No. 14 Dutch are 30-8 overall, good for their sixth straight 30-win season and the 25th under hall of fame coach George Wares. Luther College and Simpson College also closed at 10-4, a game back of Coe College, which claimed the title with an 11-3 mark after sweeping Wartburg College Saturday, 4-0 and 5-0. Consequently, the six-team, double-elimination league tournament will be staged Thursday through Saturday at Coe in Cedar Rapids. The tourney determines the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III tournament, which begins May 9.
Haycraft comes up big--Haycraft, who had thrown just 39.1 innings entering the day, entered the opener facing a two-on, one-out jam in the second inning. She threw 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks while fanning six in relief of starter Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS).
“Mallory didn’t pitch that badly but when they got a couple of runners on in the second, we decided to bring in Brie,” Wares said. “She’s been looking really good in practice. The thought was that we would re-enter Mallory later in the game, but Brie was just pitching too well to take out.
“She had a real good day. She was very effective and got ahead of the hitters. They never really even threatened against her.”
In the nightcap, she relieved starter Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) in the sixth inning and gave up a hit that forced her to deal with a bases-loaded, no-outs threat. But she retired the next three hitters, with the Spartans scoring their only run on a sacrifice fly.
Haycraft gave up a leadoff hit in the seventh and Smith re-entered, only to yield a double, putting the tying runs in scoring position. But Smith retired the next three hitters for the win, as she improved to 13-2. Smith threw six innings, allowing a run on four hits.
Central came in with the league’s leading offense but it was the more traditional Dutch formula of pitching and defense that made the difference Saturday. Wares raved about the play of third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown) and shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS).
“Whitney made some tremendous plays and Annie was very solid,” he said. “I can’t believe there was a better performance by a left side of the infield of any team in the country today.”
Central was limited to six hits in the opener and just three in the nightcap. In the first game, the Dutch plated two runners in the second inning as shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) doubled and scored on a single by catcher Katie Canney (junior, Adel, ADM HS). Pinch-runner Chelsea Greiner (senior, Agency, Cardinal HS) stole a base and scored on an infield hit by right fielder Sarah Bowen (freshman, New Sharon, North Mahaska HS).
The Dutch added two runners in the sixth as third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown) and Sarcone each singled and scored on an error.
Sarcone singled home a run in the first inning of the second game. The Dutch added a run in the fourth inning on a bases-loaded walk to second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) before Bowen had a run-scoring single in the fifth.
Wares gave credit to Dubuque’s pitchers, particularly game one starter Amanda Williams.
“She throws as hard as anybody we’ve faced,” Wares said. “Both of their pitchers were locating it well. We got a couple of timely hits and some aggressive baserunning to score our runs, but they pitched well both games.”
After a flurry of games in early April, the Dutch have taken advantage of more off days in the past two weeks, and will have four more days off before the league tournament begins. Wares said it’s not just the Central pitchers who benefit.
“The rest is helping us all,” he said. “And having another four days off will make a big difference.”