2012 Iowa Conference champions
CEDAR RAPIDS — Given time, coach Adam Stevens could probably come up with something he didn’t like about his Central College baseball team’s dominant opening day at the Iowa Conference tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium Thursday.
But after watching the third-seeded Dutch demolish sixth-seeded Coe College 12-0 in seven innings and then thump second-seeded Wartburg 6-1, nothing immediately came to mind.
“We played very, very well in all phases of the game,” Stevens said. “We picked a good day to play our best doubleheader of the year.”
The sweep vaults the Dutch (27-14) into a winners’ bracket game at 1 p.m. Friday against the winner of a Thursday evening contest between league champion Buena Vista University (33-7) and fourth-seeded Loras College (18-21). A loss Friday would send the Dutch into a 10 a.m. game Saturday, while they would play at 1 p.m. with a win.
Designated hitter Robbie Rushing (senior, West Des Moines, Valley HS) hammered six hits in the two games, including a school-record 23rd double, a triple and his sixth home run. The season doubles mark was among the oldest in the Central record book as Rushing surpassed the 22 doubles hit by long-time associate athletics director and former head coach John Edwards in 1970.
“He’s just on fire,” Stevens said. “Robbie’s really locked in.”
He’s hardly alone. Shortstop Jordan Judkins (senior, Marshalltown) had five hits and scored five runs. Third baseman Kirby Coppess (junior, Urbandale) had four hits. Second baseman Adam Ariola (senior, Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS) had three hits and drove in four runs. Right fielder Andrew O’Toole (senior, Des Moines, Lincoln HS) had three hits.
“We’ve been swinging it really well the last couple of weeks,” Stevens said. “We had great at-bats all day. We hit the ball hard, we battled with two strikes and we had some clutch hits. We hope we bring more of that tomorrow. We’re going to see a lot more good pitching but right now the guys are feeling pretty good at the plate.”
The Dutch racked up 28 hits in all. Meanwhile, they got sparkling complete-game pitching performances from Judson McKown (senior, Independence, Minn., Orono HS) and Dakotah Wolken (sophomore, Marshalltown, East Marshall HS). McKown (6-3), who tossed a two-hit shutout in his previous outing against Wartburg Saturday, came back with a five-hit whitewashing of Coe. He struck out one and didn’t walk a batter. Wolken (6-2) scattered eight hits over nine innings, walking two and striking out two.
“They both did a great job,” Stevens said. “Dakotah probably pitched the best game of his career. Wartburg’s got a great offense and to hold them to one run is outstanding.”
And the defense? The Dutch played errorless ball and turned four double plays, including three key twin killings to snuff out Wartburg rallies.
“Our pitchers are not strikeout guys,” Stevens said. “We have to play good defense behind them and our infield played outstanding.”
It’s only one day and major challenges loom ahead on what can be an arduous trek through the league tourney, where innings and pitch counts mount quickly. But that’s why Stevens was especially happy that the Dutch bullpen didn’t throw a pitch.
“We only used two guys,” he said. “That’s extremely important. We’ve got a lot of guys who are fresh and ready to pitch.”
Stevens said his veteran squad understands that work remains.
“They know that,” he said. “They know that because of today, we’ve got a great opportunity.
“But the guys have been focused in practice all week. Whoever we play, we know it’s going to be a grind-it-out game. Our seniors are playing the best baseball of their careers and they’re very confident. They’re looking forward to the challenges ahead.”