TUCSON, Ariz. — Hurdles lie ahead but it’s already evident that there’s a lot to like about this Central College softball team.
The Dutch not only stretched their winning streak to eight games but did so in dominant fashion at the Tucson Invitational Games Sunday, streaking past the University of Wis.-La Crosse 8-1 and Webster University (Mo.) 8-0 in six innings. Central has outscored its six Tucson opponents thus far 48-5.
“This is a really good softball team and we’ve got a chance to be pretty special,” coach George Wares said.
Central had dropped its three previous meetings with Wis.-La Crosse (4-4) and coach George Wares regards the Eagles as among the top NCAA Division III squads in Wisconsin.
“It’s a real good win,” Wares said. “Down the road, it may be even a better one. And then to not stub our toe (in the second game) was important.”
Central rapped out 10 hits in the opener and 13 more against a Webster (Mo.) squad the Dutch narrowly escaped 1-0 Feb. 25 at Edwardsville, Illinois.
Left fielder Megan Doty (senior, Grinnell) had five hits on the day while second baseman Haley Bach (sophomore, Council Bluffs, Lewis Central HS) and center fielder Emma Johnson (senior, Davenport, Assumption Catholic HS) each had four. Third baseman Franie Burnett (junior, Ankeny, Centennial HS) and right fielder Emma Jensen (sophomore, Earlham) added three each. Burnett and first baseman Megan Stuhr (junior, Sigourney) each knocked in four runs as Stuhr rocked a towering three-run homer in the Wis.-La Crosse game.
“The whole mood is different this year,” Wares said. “It feels like we’re back to what we normally are. We know something’s going to happen and we’re going to lose eventually, but it’s nice to keep winning a lot of games before then.”
The team’s confidence level is rising, particularly with runners on base as well as in the pitching circle, Wares said.
“We expect to score,” he said. “And if we give up a couple of base hits or an error or walk or whatever, we expect to not give up the big inning. I’m not saying we expect to shut everyone out, but I think the whole mindset of not giving up the big inning has really been instilled in this team. And (on offense) score one when you can and if that one leads to a big inning, let’s take it.”
Wares again utilized a three-pronged pitching rotation in navigating the two games. Sydni Huisman (senior, Treynor) (5-0) allowed just two hits while striking out six over five shutout innings for the win in the opener. Morgan Schaben (senior, Portsmouth, Harlan HS) yielded a run over two innings with a hit, a walk and three strikeouts. Freshman Emma Beck (Holland, Grundy Center HS) remained unscored on in Arizona, giving up two hits with a walk and three strikeouts over five innings. Schaben again sealed the deal with a perfect final frame.
“I thought Sydni was really sharp,” Wares said. “She was good against a very good hitting team and kind of set the tone for us. Morgan is going to give us what she always gives us and I didn’t think Emma was quite as sharp but yet I say that and she still shuts them out. Our expectations have increased quite a bit for those three and Chloe Dougherty (sophomore, Alleman, North Polk HS) has had her moments as well. So we think we’ve got a really good pitching staff and we’re going to keep challenging them to find ways to improve.”
They’ve combined for a combined 0.77 team earned run average.
Central has two days off before playing six games over three days to close the week. The Dutch meet Sul Ross State (Texas) for the first time in 10 years Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Central Time) and Concordia University (Wis.) at 3:30 p.m. The Falcons are off to a 4-0 start.
Central traditionally opts for just one day off during its spring break trips, but Wares has reconsidered that strategy.
“We need the time off,” he said. “It sets up well instead of the usual four days on, one day off, four days on. I think we won’t be as tired.”
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