Central softball tourney run ends

Central College

PELLA—The ending might have been different on any other weekend. Unfortunately for the Central College softball team, the NCAA Division III Pella, Iowa softball regional was played on this one and came to a quick end with a 2-1 loss to Washington-St Louis (Mo.) Saturday.

It was Central’s 10th one-run game in a highly successful year, but in an ultra-competitive four-team regional, the Dutch went 0-2 and close at 32-10. Washington-St. Louis (26-15) then stumbled against Coe College later Saturday. The Kohawks take on St Thomas (Minn.) Sunday at 1 p.m. for the regional crown. St. Thomas only needs to win once Sunday–a loss will force a final regional contest at 3:30 p.m.

Central was limited to four hits by Washington-St. Louis ace Anna McKee but had multiple scoring chances. Left fielder Tabitha Taylor (junior, Grimes, Dallas Center-Grimes HS) had two hits for the Dutch. Mariah Fritz (sophomore, Traer, East Marshall HS) gave up two unearned runs on seven hits with two walks to absorb the loss, falling to 10-5.

Fritz and fellow hurlers Annie DeVries (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) and Karly Olson (senior, Winterset) delivered the performance Central needed but a third-inning rally sparked by a rare outfield miscue were all McKee and the Bears needed.

“I was really happy with what our pitchers did—all three of them,” coach George Wares said. “Unfortunately, we made a couple of blunders defensively and that was the difference.”

Central came back with a fourth-inning tally. Olson powered a one-out double to left field and pinch-runner Kendra Sexton (sophomore, Danbury, Maple Valley-Anthon Oto HS) moved to third on Taylor’s single, then slid past the throw to the plate on a shallow fly to right field by second baseman Paige Dickel (junior, Norwalk).

The best opportunity to tie came in the following inning when first baseman Abbie Voas (senior, Chanhassen, Minn.) singled and scampered to third base on an error that put Dutch runners on the corners. But a strikeout and subsequent mixup on a steal attempt resulted in an out at the plate and Central came away scoreless. The Dutch then stranded two more runners in the sixth inning.

“Washington is a good team and McKee is a good pitcher,” Wares said. “I thought we had some quality at-bats. We had a chance to tie with a double steal, which we’ve done a lot but didn’t work, and then Paige hit a looper I thought might drop to give us a run.

“But I’m glad there was a solid effort.”

It was the final collegiate appearance for seven Central seniors, who were competing at the same time their classmates were going through commencement exercises in adjacent H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse: pinch-runners Taylor Sohn (Cedar Rapids, Kennedy HS) and Mikayla Heath (Iowa City), outfielders Felicia Schulty (Wellman, Mid-Prairie HS) and Sarah Bowen (New Sharon, North Mahaska HS), pinch-hitter Tanner Rathjens (Cedar Rapids, Kennedy HS), Voas and Olson. Wares noted that several of those seven saw little field time, yet were key contributors.

“They’ve invested so much in what others see as a limited role,” he said. “I know the average fan thinks it’s just coaches’ talk, but they’re pretty significant players. When Taylor, Tanner, Mikayla and some of those players are gone from practice for an academic commitment, you notice it, and I think the nice thing is that the other players that play a lot respect them. There’s no hierarchy. They really understand it takes everyone to do what we’ve done. And the hurt that those players are feeling right now is the same as someone like Abbie Voas, who has played almost every inning.”

It was a turnaround season for the Dutch, who made a rare appearance on the sidelines during last year’s NCAA tourney and came back to secure their record 28th NCAA berth in 2017.

“I’m pleased with what this team has been able to do and happy for the seniors,” Wares said. “As we told the players before the game, there are about 350 Division III teams who weren’t playing today. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that when you’re playing this late in the season, you’ve got something pretty special going.”

The Dutch posted the fourth-highest team batting average in school history, hitting .335, and rank fifth all-time in slugging percentage at .448. Central also had 73 doubles, matching the season record set in 2015.

Wares also cited his veteran coaching staff, including associate head coach Alicia O’Brien and assistants Keith Jones, Gary Grimes and John Edwrds.

“Excluding myself, I don’t think there’s a better Division III coaching staff in the country,” Wares said. “Coach O’Brien is a head coach (at Western Connecticut State for 18 seasons). What she does with the outfielders and with our players’ approach to hitting, and just the things she says to the players is so valuable. Use Amanda Sigulas (freshman, Morton, Ill.) as an example. Coach O’Brien spent the entire week working with her on, with two strikes, getting her to shorten up and go the other way. Then yesterday against St. Thomas, boom, that’s exactly what she does. I’ve got to be one of the most fortunate head coaches around.”

It’s still a relatively young Dutch squad. The team’s top three hitters are underclassmen in freshman center fielder Sara Tallman (Pella), shortstop Emily Wilson (sophomore, Bondurant, Bondurant-Farrar HS) and Taylor, who hit .417, .379 and .363, respectively. Tallman and Wilson were both in their first year in the program. Tallman’s average was the ninth-best in school history and she set the freshman season hits record with 58.

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Posted by on May 13 2017. Filed under College Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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