ARDEN HILLS, MINN. — A determined effort by pitcher Sydni Huisman (sophomore, Treynor) lifted the Central College softball team to a 4-1 victory at Bethel University (Minn.) Friday after a grueling 5-4, 10-inning defeat in the opener.
The twinbill was highlighted by a three-stolen base performance from center fielder Sara Tallman (senior, Pella) that gave her Central’s career thefts mark. In a tradition-rich program largely built on aggressive baserunning, Tallman’s 115 career steals tops the mark established by Daniela Grob from 1997-2000. Remarkably, all of Grob’s steals came as a pinch-runner. She’s the only player in American Rivers Conference (formerly Iowa Conference) history to gain all-conference recognition in that role.
“It’s phenomenal,” Wares said. “Sara and Daniela are so different. I’m always going to have a spot in my heart for Daniela. When you’ve got a pinch-runner get all-conference, I mean that’s pretty special. But I’m happy for Sara and I’m happy she came back (for a fifth season). She’s been really, really good in center field. She’s meant a lot to this program and she’s another one of those you’re not going to realize how great a player she is until she’s not here.”
Huisman (11-8) threw 13.2 innings, less than 24 hours after pitching 6.0 innings in a win over Buena Vista Thursday. She threw 6.2 innings in the opener Friday, getting relieved by Morgan Schaben (sophomore, Portsmouth, Harlan HS) for 3.0 innings before returning in the eighth inning and absorbed the hard-luck loss. But Huisman, who threw 115 pitches in the opener, was even sharper in tossing 113 pitches in the nightcap. She yielded three earned runs on seven hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in the opener. In the second game, she gave up just one run, scattering seven hits and a walk while fanning 10. Schaben gave up eight hits and two walks in 3.0 innings but just one run while striking out three in the opener.
Wares said Huisman’s marathon effort wasn’t the original plan.
“We thought we’d get a couple innings out of her (in the second game) but she just got stronger and kind of coasted, in some ways,” he said. “She threw with velocity and her screwball was really jumping. They’re a pretty good hitting team.”
The opening loss was especially crushing because the Dutch jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning and were an out away from a win in the seventh but couldn’t secure the win. Bethel ace Kayla Simacek (15-4) largely kept Central in check but the Dutch used their small-ball attack in the third. Tallman and left fielder Emma Johnson (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS) had RBI infield singles, freshman right fielder Franie Burnett (Ankeny, Centennial HS) drove in a run with a bunt single and freshman first baseman Megan Stuhr (Sigourney) had an RBI hit.
But hard-hitting Bethel (26-8) kept the pressure on throughout the game with two runs in the third inning, one in the fifth and one in the seventh. The Royals, who outhit Central 15-7, stranded 15 runners but finally got the winning tally in the 10th.
“We were really good defensively,” Wares said. “Losing that one was really tough. (Simacek) was the best pitcher we’ve see in a while. She had tremendous spin and great movement. She had struck out 18 in her last outing.”
Yet Central competed.
“It’s not like we were down about how we played,” Wares said. “We told the players that it was a 10-inning battle. It was a really competitive softball game. It’s just hard to lose it.”
Despite the disappointment, the Dutch came back with a three-run third inning in the second game, all coming with two outs. Johnson’s infield hit brought in a run and Stuhr delivered a two-run single. Central added a run in the fifth inning as Stuhr drove in Tallman with a single to center field. Stuhr had three hits and four RBI on the day.
“You never know how players are going to respond but give them a lot of credit,” Wares said. “We shut them down and obviously were able to put some runs on the board. (Shortstop) Daria Parchert (senior, Illinois City, Ill., Rockridge HS) was phenomenal and (second baseman) Lauren Birt (junior, Ankeny, Centennial HS) made some really big plays.”
Meanwhile, Tallman closed in another career record. With three runs Friday she has 150, one away from the school mark set by Abbey Strajack (2012-15). And Tallman’s two hits give her 196, good for fourth place on Central’s all-time list. She’s two back of Donell Hotze (1997-2000), who is in third.
Central plays its regular-season finale Sunday with an American Rivers game against Buena Vista University at 3 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex softball field. The Dutch (15-8 conference) swept a doubleheader from Buena Vista at Pella Thursday, 9-5 and 4-1. The Beavers are 15-20 overall and 7-16 in the league after stumbling 3-2 at home against Nebraska Wesleyan University Friday.
A video stream and live stats for Sunday’s game can be accessed through the Central athletics website at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/central/.