Four NCAA Div. III championships
CEDAR RAPIDS — Prepared for a long day at the Iowa Conference tournament, the Central College softball team had a short one Saturday and was ousted by the University of Dubuque, 5-4.
That leaves the No. 13-rated Dutch at 30-10, but still hopeful of another NCAA Division III tournament bid. The 62-team field will be announced Monday at 9 a.m. (Central Time) through a video webcast at www.ncaa.com. Under a new tournament format, which mirrors the format used in Division I, teams will be sent to three- and four-team regionals May 9-11, with the 16 regional champions squaring off in eight super regionals May 16-17 to determine berths in the May 22-27 finals in Tyler, Texas.
But Central’s postseason position would have been far more secure with a victory Saturday. The Dutch needed to win three times Saturday to have a shot at the conference tourney crown on Sunday, but instead suffered a loss in the day’s opener that was painfully similar to Friday’s 7-4 setback against Buena Vista. The Dutch carried a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning, only to give up four runs on a pair of homers that propelled Dubuque (22-14) to victory. Central had swept the Spartans at Dubuque just a week earlier.
“We just aren’t pitching very well,” coach George Wares said. “It’s frustrating because both days we started out so well offensively.”
After a lead-off walk led to a Dubuque run in the first inning, the Dutch put up four runs in the third, sparked by a home run from first baseman Kaitlyn Matzen (junior, Manly, Central Springs HS), her sixth. Central had five hits in the inning, including an RBI single from designated player Karlee Rock (junior, Wheatland, Calamus-Wheatland HS).
Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) gave up four runs on six hits in 4.1 innings while Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) took the loss, dropping to 6-2. She was charged with one run on one hit, but it was a three-run homer by the first hitter she faced after entering the game.
Wares’ belief in his squad is unshaken.
“We really have played well defensively,” he said. “We’re just not pitching as well as we have in the past. That doesn’t mean we can’t. All three of our pitchers have been very good at times this year. We’re just not consistent right now.
“We just have to get better.”