PELLA—With one swing, Katie Banowetz (senior, Grand Mound, Calamus-Wheatland HS)turned a game where almost everything had gone wrong for the Central College softball team into one of its most memorable in recent seasons.
Trailing Loras College 4-1 in the seventh inning, Banowetz entered as a pinch-hitter with one out and two aboard. She rocketed a 3-2 pitch over the right-center field fence for her second career homer and forced extra innings. The Dutch followed up in the eighth when designated hitter Megan Doty (sophomore, Grinnell) dashed home on a one-out single to left- center field by second baseman Lauren Birt (junior, Ankeny, Centennial HS) for a 5-4, eight-inning win before completing the doubleheader sweep with a 6-0 victory.
Banowetz, who got a few early season starts at first base, lately has emerged as Central’s top pinch-hitting option, a status solidified with Friday’s rocket.
“That wasn’t a fluke, it was well-hit,” coach George Wares said. “For her to hit the thing out was just a huge play for us and definitely a great play for her. You’re just so happy for her. She’s handled the role well and for her to get rewarded like that is pretty special.”
Banowetz later drew a pinch-hit walk in the second game.
“She also got the big base hit at Coe when we got down 3-0 (and won 6-5 in eight innings),” Wares said. “And she’s drawn some key walks. She does not swing at a lot of bad pitches. She runs the count well and she knows the strike zone.”
What preceded the late theatrics was not as pretty. The Dutch committed four errors and were quiet at the plate with only five hits in the first six innings. Wares said there were some bad decisions in the field as well.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “We weren’t very good at practice yesterday. We did a lot of talking and I think, initially, got a little more tense. Everybody’s trying to make great plays and then our focus got lost on a couple. That was about as bad of a start as you could have.”
Birt and left fielder Emma Johnson (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption Catholic HS)each had two hits. Sydney Huisman (sophomore, Treynor) threw 8.0 innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits with two walks and eight strikeouts, improving to 9-5. But she needed 132 pitches to get through it and didn’t have much left in the tank for game two. She threw the first two innings, giving up two hits and a walk with one strikeout. With Morgan Schaben (sophomore, Portsmouth, Harlan HS) out with an injury, Wares turned to Skylar Sadler (sophomore, Lisbon) and she responded by notching her first win, throwing five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk.
“That was really needed,” Wares said. “She’s had some really good innings here and there in practice. Her JV effort against Wartburg was really good and then she pitched well in JV against Dubuque. (Assistant coach Ashley Allen) is actually calling the game for her there and doing a nice job and I think Skylar’s confidence has come back. We were always going to have Sydni ready to come back in but she never even went to the bullpen, which was nice.”
Central perked up offensively with eight hits but this time it was Loras (1-19 overall, 1-15 conference) that couldn’t find its footing in the field, committing seven errors. Catcher Madison Farrington (sophomore, Marhshalltown, East Marshall HS)ripped her first collegiate homer, a two-run shot in the sixth inning, and had three RBIs.