2012 Iowa Conference champions
PELLA — In a crisp performance suitable for an instructional video, the Central College baseball team got a two-hit shutout by ace Judson McKown (senior, Independence, Minn., Orono HS) for a 1-0 victory over Wartburg College en route to an Iowa Conference doubleheader split Friday.
The Knights (24-14 overall, 18-8 conference) held off Central (24-13 overall, 16-10 conference) in the nightcap, 5-2, allowing Wartburg to retain its hold on second place in the league. The teams wrap up the regular season Saturday with a Senior Day doubleheader at 1 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. Central needs a sweep to claim a share of second place and a first-round bye in the league tournament at Cedar Rapids May 8-11.
Friday’s opener matched two of the league’s top hurlers and was completed in a swift one hour, seven minutes, easily the season’s quickest game. Neither team substituted in the game, neither coach made a trip to the mound and neither team had a hit until the bottom of the fourth, when Central right fielder Andrew O’Toole (senior, Des Moines, Lincoln HS) lined a double to left center, then scored the game’s only run on a single up the middle by designated hitter Robbie Rushing (senior, West Des Moines, Valley HS). O’Toole had two of Central’s four hits off Wartburg starter Ben Rettenmeier, who threw a complete game, striking out eight batters and walking none.
McKown (5-3) walked one and fanned three, but had to deal with some anxious moments in the seventh inning. Wartburg’s Tyler Mougin reached on the game’s only error, then with two outs and the Knights down to their last strike, DJ Utley, who had both of Wartburg’s hits, roped a double into the left-field corner. But McKown coaxed a fly ball on the next pitch to end the game. It was the first time the Knights have been shut out all year.
“Justin (McKown) was as good as he’s ever been today,” coach Adam Stevens said. “He had his stuff going plus we played really good d behind him. Anytime you win a 1-0 game, you’ve got to play really well defensively and on the mound and we did that. So that was a great way to start the weekend.
“You kind of knew going in it was going to be a quick one with two good pitchers throwing. Wartburg’s a good team. They came back and had a chance to take the lead there in the seventh but Justin made a great pitch against a really good hitter and won the game.
“In a game like that, a play here, a play there is going to be the difference. We were lucky enough to string two hits together.”
Central was unable to do that in the nightcap. Pitcher Dakotah Wolken (sophomore, Dillon, East Marshall HS) kept Wartburg off the scoreboard through four innings, but the Dutch missed an opportunity in the bottom of the fourth after putting runners on first and third base with one out.
“If we score there, maybe it could have been a different game,” Stevens said.
The Knights came back in the next inning with a home run by Ryan Kemp along with an unearned run, then plated three runs in the sixth on a homer by pinch-hitter Clay Emmrich.
“They got two balls up in the wind and we didn’t do that,” Stevens said. “Their guy did a really good job on the mound. We just couldn’t string hits together and then we hit into a couple double plays. That was pretty much the difference.”
Still, Central turned up the pressure in the bottom of the ninth. Left fielder Zach Zylstra (junior, Pella, Christian HS) singled and scored as the Dutch put two more runners on to bring the tying run to the plate before Wartburg could put the game away. The loss was only Central’s second in its last 13 outings.
“Sometimes it’s tough when there are good pitchers going,” Stevens said. “It just looks like you’ve got no energy but the guys are in there trying, they’re working. We came back and had the tying run at the plate and hopefully we can take some of that momentum into tomorrow. We know we’re going to have to play really well. There are two good teams playing. I think we’re capable of putting two good games together and we’ll see where we stand at the end of the day.
The Dutch finished with 10 hits but stranded eight runners and hit into a pair of double plays. Zylstra and center fielder Jake Effron (senior, Glendale, Ariz., North Pointe Prep HS) each had two hits.
Wolken (5-2) surrendered four earned runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout in six innings. Andy Carr (junior, Rocford, Ill., Lutheran HS) threw three innings of scoreless relief.
Saturday Central will recognize 13 seniors who are making their final home-field appearance in Dutch uniforms.
“We kind of control our destiny as far as (securing the conference tournament) bye, and it’s Senior Day, so we’ve got a lot to play for,” Stevens said. “It should be a fun day.”