PELLA — On the brink of suffering a crippling home-series sweep, the Central College softball team delivered the response it needed Monday with a 9-6 comeback victory over No. 17-rated Wartburg College.
Wartburg (19-5 overall, 10-5 American Rivers) had dealt the Dutch a pair of deflating setbacks Sunday, 4-0 and 6-4, then bolted to a 3-0 second-inning lead in an unsightly fashion Monday, with no hits but two Central errors.
“When you have a young team, which we are, you don’t know how they’re going to respond,” coach George Wares said.
The Knights had ace Ashley Nelson in the circle but the Dutch (5-5 overall, 3-3 conference) found some answers in their half of the second, striking for four runs on just one hit, a run-scoring infield single by left fielderEmma Johnson (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS).
Up 4-3, it was Central’s first lead of the weekend and that seemed to jump-start the slumbering Dutch bats. Speedy right fielder Franie Burnett (freshman, Ankeny, Centennial HS) roped a triple to right field to start the third and later scored as did Johnson, who beat out another infield hit. Then shortstop Daria Parchert (senior, Illinois City, Ill., Rockridge HS) doubled and scored on double steal to highlight a two-run fourth frame extending the advantage to 8-4.
A home run that skipped over the right field fence by Wartburg’s Tarah Wehde made it 8-5 in the sixth inning but again Central had the answer as freshman first baseman Megan Stuhr (Sigourney)singled and scored on a hit by pitcher/designated playerMorgan Schaben (sophomore, Portsmouth, Harlan HS).
“That extra run we got in the bottom of the sixth was pretty significant,” Wares said.
Schaben again tag-teamed with Sydni Huisman (sophomore, Treynor) in sharing the pitching duties, as Wares switched them six times. They withstood two more Wartburg seventh-inning runs to secure the much-needed win.
“That’s probably not something we’re going to do a lot but we felt they both do some things that are effective against certain hitters,” Wares said. “So it’s more about specific match-ups. We talked with them about it this morning and they both said they like it because they have the other one to lean on.”
Huisman (4-4) go the win, covering six innings. She allowed five hits and no earned runs with two walks and no strikeouts.
Johnson and Schaben each had two hits while Burnett and Johnson each scored two runs. The Dutch outhit Wartburg 9-7.
It was a grueling two days but that’s only the start of Central’s week. The Dutch are in an 11-game, eight-day stretch and head to Cedar Rapids Tuesday for a league twinbill with Coe College at 2 p.m. The Kohawks are 12-6 overall and 7-3 in the conference. Central travels to Indianola Wednesday for a doubleheader with Simpson College followed by a single game Thursday before returning home for three games with the University of Dubuque this weekend.
“We have to take it a half inning at a time, that’s the only way you can look at it,” Wares said. “Otherwise, you can get overwhelmed.”
Similarly, there’s no time to think about conference standings or NCAA tournament possibilities.
“All we can do is keep trying to get better,” Wares said. “We talk about, for this group in particular, it’s progress not perfection.”
And Monday’s victory was progress.
“I’ll feel a lot better getting on the bus tomorrow after a win today,” Wares said.