Four NCAA Div. III championships
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Conference tournament trail became a little longer for the Central College softball team after faltering in the seventh inning and stumbling against Buena Vista, 7-4 Friday.
The 13th-rated Dutch (30-9) carried a 4-2 lead into the final frame, but used all three of their pitchers in a failed attempt to stymie a five-run Buena Vista rally.
Third-seeded Central comes back at 10 a.m. Saturday to take on fifth-seeded Dubuque in an elimination game in the six-team tourney. The Spartans (21-14) were routed 8-0 in six innings by fourth-seeded Simpson in Friday’s first game.
Under the tourney’s new format, to advance to Sunday’s action, the Dutch would need three straight wins Saturday. The Dubuque-Central winner takes on sixth-seeded Buena Vista at 2 p.m. and the winner of that contest meets Simpson at 4 p.m. Saturday’s only winners bracket game is a noon contest between Coe and Luther.
The Dutch could have kept their path a little clearer, but couldn’t maintain their early three-run lead. They used back-to-back homers by shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) and designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS to go up 3-0 in the first inning. Buena Vista got a run in the top of the third inning but Central answered with an unearned tally in the bottom of the third.
Starter Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) was relieved in the third by Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton). After yielding an RBI single in the third, Smith kept Buena Vista off the board until giving up a solo home run in the sixth.
But an error to start the seventh ignited the Beavers (14-19). Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) followed Smith and was then replaced by Haycraft as Buena Vista erupted for five runs on three hits, including a three-run double.
Coach George Wares, characteristically, got right to the point.
“We were bad,” he said.
But Wares was also quick to credit Buena Vista, which stormed back from four runs down in sixth later in the day against Luther before dropping a 5-4 decision in eight innings.
“They’re playing really well,” he said.
Besides the first-inning home runs, Central had just two other hits. Sarcone was on base three times and scored twice.
Schulenberg (11-6) absorbed the loss despite facing only three hitters. Haycraft gave up one run and one hit with two walks and a strikeout in 3.1 innings while Smith was charged with two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
Wares said the Dutch can’t think about winning three games Saturday, but must start by focusing on the first one, or it will be the only one.
“We’ve just got to win the next game,” he said. “We aren’t thinking about winning the tournament right now. We just want to win as many games as we can and see where that takes us.”
An audio webcast of Saturday’s action can be accessed via www.kniakrls.com with the voice of the Dutch, Trevor Castle, calling the play-by-play.