2012 Iowa Conference champions
PELLA — There’s no better time than Thursday for the Central College baseball team to start the quest for another 250 victories for coach Adam Stevens.
The Dutch open play in the Iowa Conference tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids at 1 p.m. Thursday against Coe College. Central (25-14) carries the No. 3 seed in the six-team double-elimination tourney while Coe (15-22) is the No. 6 seed.
Stevens notched career win number 250 in Central’s 13-9 triumph over Wartburg at Pella Saturday. He’s posted a 250-193 (.564) mark over 11 seasons, winning the 2012 conference crown. He has the Dutch in the league tournament for the 10th time during that span.
“We’re so proud of all Coach Stevens has accomplished and certainly for attaining his 250th win,” athletics director Eric Van Kley said. “His teams have done a tremendous job on the field but we’re also proud of how his teams conduct themselves off the field. Adam is a terrific role model and develops some great leaders. This year’s team is another example of that.”
The winner of the Coe-Central tussle takes on No. 2 seed Wartburg College (25-15), which has a first-round bye, finishing a notch better than the Dutch in the league standings after the two teams split a four-game set in Pella over the weekend. Central swept a four-game set over Coe in Pella April 18-19. But those wins mean little this week, Stevens said.
“Coe’s a solid team,” he said. “It took everything we have to beat them. It’s a good program with good players. This is tournament baseball and there is so much parity in the league, we know we have to play well.
“The good news is, our guys understand that and are really working hard. The tournament is always a fun time and the guys are excited to go over there.”
Central also has the advantage of a veteran roster that includes 13 seniors. Senior designated hitter Robbie Rushing (West Des Moines,Valley HS) tops the team batting charts with a .401 mark. He has 22 doubles, five homers and 41 RBIs. Senior shortstop Jordan Judkins (Marshalltown) is hitting .369 with 10 doubles, a team-high five triples and 29 RBIs. And senior second baseman Adam Ariola (Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS) is hitting.350 with 28 RBIs and a team-high 13 stolen bases.
Senior Judson McKown (Independence, Minn., Orono HS) heads a strong pitching staff. He’s posted a 5-3 record with a miserly 1.68 earned run average. In his most recent outing Friday, he tossed a 1-0 two-hit shutout victory over Wartburg. Sophomore Dakotah Wolken (Marshalltown, East Marshall HS) has a 5-2 mark with a 4.02 ERA and senior Matt Schissel (Rock Island, Ill., Alleman HS) is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA.
Several other hurlers have also thrown well, which is valuable heading into the league tourney, where depth is tested.
“I really like our depth,” Stevens said. “We’ve played a lot of guys this year and we feel really comfortable with our roster. The guys have really handled their roles well. Sometimes that’s not easy but we’ve had great leadership.”
Those roles could change during the tournament.
“(That’s true) especially when you’re in an elimination game,” Stevens said. “You have to do whatever you can to survive. It doesn’t matter how. You can win 2-1 or 25-24, you just want to continue to survive and advance.”
While Stevens would obviously prefer to have a first-round bye, he’s still confident in his team’s ability to challenge.
“It’s always an advantage to have a bye,” he said. “But I feel like this team can compete with anybody. It’s just a matter of executing and player well. And the thing that makes me feel good is we’ve really played well the last 3-4 weeks.”
Since April 8, the Dutch are 14-4.
“We do not want to change anything, but we need to have a sense of urgency this week. Having the experience we do is always a good thing.”
Iowa Conference baseball tournament
May 8-10, at Cedar Rapids
All games at Veterans Memorial Stadium unless otherwise indicated
Thursday, May 8
Game 1 — No. 4 Loras (17-21) vs. No. 5 Simpson (20-20), 1 p.m. (Daniels Park)
Game 2 — No. 3 Central (25-14) vs. No. 6 Coe (15-22), 1 p.m.
Game 3 — Game 2 winner vs. No. 2 Wartburg (25-15), 4 p.m.
Game 4 — Game 1 winner vs. No. 1 Buena Vista (33-7), 7 p.m.
Friday, May 19
Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 6 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7 — Game 5 winner vs. lower seeded Game 3/4 loser $, 4 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 7 winner vs. higher seeded Game 3/4 loser $,7 p.m.
Saturday, May 10
Game 9 — Game 8 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 10 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 11 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 4 p.m. (if needed)
$ — If one of the Game 3/4 losers has already had a bye, that team will play in Game 7, regardless of seed