Four NCAA Div. III championships
TUCSON, ARIZ.—The Central College softball team got the wins it needed in the short term but had its eye on long-term results as well Thursday morning.
The Dutch (9-3) rolled up another five-inning triumph, 10-2 over La Verne (Calif.), before notching a 6-0 shutout of Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.), giving them a three-game win streak after absorbing three disappointing defeats to a pair of Division III playoff contenders.
“When you lose three straight, even though they were against two very good teams—Wis.-La Crosse and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) twice—it hurts your confidence a little bit,” coach George Wares said. “That’s the nature of sports. So to get three straight now and play OK, helps. Now we can come back against two upper-level California teams (Friday).”
Those teams up next are Whittier (Calif.) Friday at 9 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) and traditional powerhouse Chapman (Calif.) at 11 a.m.
Audio webcast—An audio webcast of Friday’s Whittier game is tentatively slated to be offered through www.kniakrls.com. The webcast begins at approximately 11 a.m. Central Time.
The Dutch were able to get back in sync Thursday, getting their staple running game going again with 11 stolen bases, including seven against Pomona-Pitzer, while racking up 16 hits. But they also got a combined shutout from pitchers Trisha Smith (sophomore, New Hampton) and Brie Haycraft (senior, Eldridge, North Scott HS). Smith (3-0) limited Pomona-Pitzer to four hits over five innings with one walk and four strikeouts. Haycraft tossed two innings of hitless relief, recording one strikeout.
Mallory Schulenberg (junior, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) went all five innings in the shortened opener, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in improving to 3-2.
“We called the game differently, not just in trying to win the game but in putting our pitchers in position where they would have to mix it up a little more,” he said. “With Trish (Smith) we wanted to see what she can do. That’s going to help us long-term.”
Wares determined before the second game that Smith would be limited to five innings to avoid overtaxing her arm while also getting Haycraft some action.
“I think to make a trip like this, having three pitchers is a necessity,” he said. “Having four isn’t bad, but three is adequate and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of not giving too many innings to any of the three.”
The Dutch offense went to work early once again against La Verne, getting a welcome two-run homer from catcher Katie Canney (junior, Adel, ADM HS). Canney had to leave Wednesday’s opener early due to illness and wasn’t even in uniform for the second game. But Thursday her blast over the left-field fence, her second homer of the season, capped a four-run first inning.
“It was good for us to hear this morning that she was OK,” Wares said. “Obviously Dana Van Renterghem (junior, Oskaloosa) has given us some real good innings as a back-up, but Katie’s bat is pretty important to us. So that home run was good to see.”
Canney had a pair of hits in three at-bats on the day. It was a big morning for third baseman Whitney Sowers (junior, Marshalltown), who had four hits, including a double and her second home run of the young season, while shortstop Annie Sarcone (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) had three hits, including a pair of doubles against Pomona-Pitzer, while driving in four runs and stealing three bases. Second baseman Abbey Strajack (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) had three hits.
Central has not previously met Whittier but the Poets appear to have one of their best clubs in recent years, with a 15-5 mark which includes three wins in four tries against Chapman and sweeps of La Verne and Pomona-Pitzer. Chapman, a traditional Division III tournament contender, is on the rise again after a few down seasons. The Panthers are 12-10, suffering a pair of tight 1-0 losses to powerhouse Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.), and take an eight-game win streak into Friday morning’s action.
“It will be a real tough day,” Wares said. “Chapman has some really good pitching and good athletes while Whittier has a lot of offensive punch. So it’s going to be a challenge, similar to the Wis.-La Crosse/Claremont day (Monday).”