PELLA — In between games of its Sunday doubleheader against Simpson College, the Central College baseball team recognized the 13 seniors on the roster and gave student coach Jake Wegner (senior, Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS) the first at-bat of his career to lead off the second game.
Simpson (17-21, 14-18 American Rivers Conference) swept Central (13-25, 10-22 conference) 6-0, 10-2.
Wegner first came to Central in the fall of 2015 after a bout with cancer in February of his senior year in high school. His doctors cleared him to play for the Dutch his freshman season before a relapse over the winter sent him back into treatment.
He returned in the fall of 2017 after defeating cancer for a second time and has been with the program as a student coach. He asked Coach Matt Schirm for one at-bat on Senior Day and his wish was granted. Wegner hit a ground ball and forced the shortstop to make a good throw to put him out.
“He wanted to end his career on his terms,” “He wasn’t going to let cancer end his career. I knew hed go up there swinging. It was a neat moment. I was tearing up in the dugout just waching it all transpire.”
“It was like riding a bike,” Wegner said. “I felt like I never left, just felt like I took a bit of a break. I was happy I got the chance to do it again.”
On the field, Central struggled offensively and defensively. The Dutch only mustered eight singles and committed seven errors.
“We didn’t do nearly enough offensively this weekend,” Schirm said. “But the reason it got out of hand today is because we didn’t play defense very well.”
Jon Roozeboom (senior, Waukee) got Central on the board in the eighth inning of game two with a sacrifice fly RBI. Quinn Miller’s (junior, third baseman, Cedar Rapids, Xavier HS) single through the left side in the next at-bat gave the Dutch a second run.
A senior-laden lineup in game two saw four seniors collect hits as Roozeboom, shortstop Kyle Hauser (Poplar Grove, Ill., Belvidere North HS), designated hitter Kyle Wright (Manchester, West Delaware HS) and second baseman Collin LeFeber (Omaha, Neb., Central HS) all tallied base knocks.
Game two starter Nathan Schwanke (senior, Omaha, Neb., Concordia HS) threw 118 pitches over 7.0 innings, striking out six and allowing three earned runs.
Kurby Vowels (sophomore, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) was the losing pitcher in game one, giving up six runs on eight hits, one walk and striking out two.
“I think we pitched better than the scoreboard looked today,” Schirm said.
Central will be the No. 8 seed for the American Rivers Conference tournament and will start with a play-in game Tuesday against No. 9 Nebraska Wesleyan University in Pella. The start time has yet to be determined. The winner faces No. 1 Coe College on Thursday. Central beat the Prairie Wolves in three out of four games two weeks ago.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround,” Schirm said “I told the team that everybody starts 0-0 when its playoff time. We can beat anybody in the conference but we have to play really well. We haven’t been able to do that consistently this year but if we can put it together this week then we’ll see what happens.”