PELLA — Another walk-off win in the opening game of a doubleheader against Nebraska Wesleyan University spurred the Central College baseball team to its first American Rivers Conference series victory of the season.
Central (12-18, 9-15 conference) took down Nebraska Wesleyan (10-25, 8-20 conference) 4-3 in extra innings in the first game and then rolled to an 8-3 triumph in the nightcap. The two sides split a doubleheader Friday, giving Central a 3-1 advantage in the four-game set.
“It was a big series win for us,” coach Matt Schirm said. “It sets us up in a good position to move up the standings a little bit.”
In game one, pinch hitter Tanner Bigelow (freshman, Gilbert, Ariz., Highland HS) started the bottom of the ninth off with a double to left field. Chris Hensley (senior, right field, Ottumwa) bunted him over to third and made it safely to first after an error by the catcher. On a Kyle Hauser (senior, shortstop, Poplar Grove, Ill., Belvidere North HS) fly out to left field, Bigelow was cut down on a close play at the plate on a throw from left field.
With Hensley at first base and two outs, Tyler Sass (freshman, center field, Lincoln, Neb., Southwest HS)drilled a ball to left center field for a double and Hensley beat the throw at home to seal the victory.
“The resilience of this team really sticks out,” Schirm said. “We thought we might have had the game won on the first play at the plate. The call didn’t go our way but Tyler came up with a huge double for us and walked it off”
Central pounded out 21 hits in the doubleheader.Landon Vander Leest (junior, Pella) had two in the first game while Bigelow, Lucas Farren (senior, second baseman, Yorkville, Ill.) and Hauser had two in the second game. The Dutch had five doubles, a triple by Farren and a solo home run by third baseman Quinn Miller (junior, Cedar Rapids, Xavier HS)
“We’ve started to turn a corner offensively,” Schirm said. “Up and down the lineup, we had a lot of quality at-bats and hard-hit balls. Quinn told me after that it was his first home run ever.”
Three Central pitchers went three innings apiece in the opener, combining for 12 strikeouts but yielding nine free passes. Caleb Evans (sophomore, Davenport, Central HS) got the start, Nathan Schwanke (senior, Omaha, Neb., Concordia HS) tossed three scoreless frames in the middle and Landon Vander Leest (junior, Pella) tallied the win after missing a save opportunity in the seventh.
“We got what we needed from those,” “Landon had a tough first inning but I was extremely proud of his mental toughness. He settled in, gave us a couple more scoreless innings that allowed us to win the game.”
Kurby Vowels (sophomore, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) was the winning pitcher in game two, tossing 5.3 innings and striking out four with just one run allowed.
The Dutch travel to Storm Lake for a four-gamer series with Buena Vista University Friday and Sunday.