LINCOLN, Neb. — A bad start was threatening to turn into an ugly day for the Central College softball team Saturday.
Having already endured a 10-2, six-inning thrashing at Nebraska Wesleyan University (12-18 overall, 10-12 American Rivers) the Dutch quickly dug a 6-0 hole after two innings of the nightcap. But Central (14-10 overall, 12-8 conference) sprung to life with 11 unanswered runs and an 11-6 victory for doubleheader split.
“It was looking bad,” coach George Wares admitted. “We were down 6-0 and we weren’t out of the inning yet. You’re starting to think it could be 10-0. I told the team I don’t think we’ve ever been run-ruled twice in a conference doubleheader.”
Fortunately, that record remains intact. The key hits that were so elusive in the opener suddenly flowed from the Dutch bats.
A two-out, two-run single in the third inning by right fielder Franie Burnett (freshman, Ankeny, Centennial HS) seemed to flip the power button for the Dutch offense. Shortstop Daria Parchert (senior, Illinois City, Ill., Rockridge HS) and left fielder Megan Doty (sophomore, Grinnell) followed with run-scoring hits in a five-run frame.
Wares gave a big share of the credit to pitchersMorgan Schaben (sophomore, Portsmouth, Harlan HS) and Skylar Sadler (sophomore, Lisbon) for entering in relief and curbing the Nebraska Wesleyan momentum.
“Morgan pitched well and Skylar gave us two solid innings,” Wares said.
Sadler’s effort helped a Wares gamble pay off. Tied 6-6 in the top of the sixth, the veteran coach decided to bring Banowetz back as designated player, which required lifting Schaben as pitcher. Banowetz reached on an error, triggering a four-run inning that put the Dutch in command.
Burnett was credited with two hits and four RBI in the contest but Central was outhit in the contest 14-11. Schaben (3-3) got the win, getting charged with a run on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings. Sadler gave up two hits and a walk with one strikeout over the final two frames.
Wares said it’s no secret that the Dutch have the ability to score runs.
“It’s not physical talent,” he said. “It’s physical talent combined with mental toughness and grit.”
The Dutch also got a lift from a second-inning double play started by second baseman Lauren Birt (junior, Ankeny, Centennial HS) that ended a threat.
“That was a huge double play,” Wares said. “Maybe as good as this program has seen.”
Central was outhit 13-6 in the opener. Sydni Huisman (sophomore, Treynor) absorbed the loss, surrendering six runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Huisman (9-7) also started the nightcap but only retired one hitter before being removed.
Mistakes were plentiful on the windblown afternoon, yet Wares knows the Dutch were dangerously close to a far more distressing result. Instead, his young squad clawed its way back to a position to win the series on Sunday.
“That says quite a bit about our players,” he said.
The teams conclude their three-game series with a single contest Sunday at noon.
Central No. 5 in region—Central was ranked fifth in the NCAA Division III Midwest Region rankings Friday. The rankings serve as the basis for selections to the NCAA tournament. The field was reduced from 63 to 48 teams this year, meaning at-large berths are more scarce this season.
NCAA Division III Midwest Region rankings
1. St. Olaf (Minn.) 15-3
2. Wartburg 22-6
3. Saint Benedict (Minn.) 21-5
4. Coe 19-8
5. Central 14-10
6. Luther 20-12
7. Dubuque 18-11
8. St. Thomas (Minn.) 22-6