Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA — North Central College (Ill.) seized on some early Central College defensive lapses and never relinquished control, advancing with a 5-0 victory over the Dutch in the first round of the NCAA Division III Pella Regional Friday.
That sends Cental (30-11) into an elimination-bracket contest Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with Iowa Conference rival Luther College (30-7). The top-seeded Norse were surprised by Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.), 7-2 earlier Friday.
Washington-St. Louis (31-15) meets North Central (30-11) at 11 a.m. The Luther-Central winner then takes on the Washington-St. Louis and North Central loser at 4 p.m. to set up Sunday’s championship round.
A bunt single and a pair of errors was all it took for North Central to grab a 1-0 first-inning lead. The Cardinals took advantage of another defensive lapse for a second-inning run and added single tallies again in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
Meanwhile, pitcher Andrea Starr limited Central to five hits, including two by third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown). The Dutch put runners on second and third in the fourth and sixth innings, but came up empty.
“As always, give credit to the team that beat you,” coach George Wares said. “North Central came in much more ready, much more prepared and they just played better than we did.
“Part of it was them and part of it—I hate to use the word flat, but that’s just what it seemed like. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively and obviously defensively we did not play well.”
Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) took the loss, dropping to 13-3. She gave up two earned runs on five hits with three walks—all intentional—and three strikeouts in four innings. Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) gave up a run on two hits with three strikeouts in two innings and Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
The keys to victory Saturday do not change, Wares said.
“It’s nothing different,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch well and you’ve got to defend well. And obviously you have to do more offensively than we did today.”
Staying in the winner’s bracket is the simplest path to regional tourney success, but Wares said the title is not out of reach.
“I said going in that any of the four teams could win it and I said any team could come back from a loss in the first game and win the whole thing,” he said. “It’s not like you need to win six or seven games. You’ve just got to get two tomorrow and then hope for the best on Sunday. But obviously the first one tomorrow is important.”