Larry Happel, Sports Information Director
PELLA — Twice the Central College softball team entered the bottom of the sixth inning trailing 5-4 and twice the Dutch struck for three runs in a pair of 7-5 American Rivers wins over the University of Dubuque Tuesday.
Designated player/second baseman Kaitlyn Andresen (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) and catcher Kylie Olson (senior, Mapleton, Minn., Maple River HS) each delivered clutch two-run hits in the frames to put Central (18-6 overall, 8-2 conference) on top.
“Give the players a lot of credit for hanging around enough to come back and win,” coach George Wares said.
It was another long day at the office for pitcher Mariah Fritz (senior, Tama, East Marshall HS), who went the distance, cranking out 217 pitches over 14 innings to improve to 12-5.
Central used a four-run third inning in the opener to take a 4-2 lead as shortstop Daria Parchert (sophomore, Illinois City, Ill., Rockridge HS) and first baseman Amanda Sigulas (junior, Morton, Ill.) had run-scoring hits. But Dubuque surged on top with a three-run sixth inning.
Dubuque reliever Kayla Breunig fanned five of the first eight Central batters she faced when Olson came through with a momentum-changing at-bat to draw a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, launching the winning rally.
“ Kylie Olson had two of the best at-bats of the day,” Wares said. “That walk, being down 1-2 and then going 12 pitches, and then the base hit (in the second game).”
A pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Sarah Sponder (junior, Sioux City, East HS) tied the game and then Andresen lined a two-run single to center field for the go-ahead runs.
But Dubuque kept swinging in the second game, taking a first-inning lead on a three-run homer.
“When you get down 3-0 and your pitcher’s already thrown a hundred-some pitches, it doesn’t look real good,” Wares said.
But Central got two runs in the second inning, as right fielder Sadie Baugher (senior, Eddyville, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont HS) had an RBI hit, and tied the game in the third on an Andresen double.
Parchert doubled and scored on a two-out Baugher hit in the fourth, but Dubuque took its 5-4 lead in the fifth.
With two outs and two on in the sixth, Olson bounced a single through the right side to put Central back on top and Baugher followed with a triple down the right-field line to make it 7-5.
“Give Sadie Baugher credit, that extra run was huge,” Wares said.
Fritz surrendered three earned runs on 10 hits with five walks and two strikeouts in the opener. She gave up four earned runs on eight hits with three walks and two strikeouts in the second game.
“We’ve convinced her, right or wrong, that she can do it,” Wares said. “Nothing close to perfection but she’s gutting it out.”
Fritz did it despite taking a shot off her foot in the opener, and two other Central players had to persevere through injury as well, forcing the Dutch to make extensive use of the bench.
“We were just piecing things together,” Wares said.
Andresen, center fielder Sara Tallman (junior, Pella) and designated player/second baseman Lauren Birt (freshman, Ankeny, Centennial HS) each had three hits on the day.
Central’s defense committed five errors, yet came up big on several occasions.
“(Third baseman) Lauren Bagby (senior, Norwalk) got some shots,” Wares said. “Daria (Parchert) does it so consistently at shortstop, Lauren Birt’s getting there (at second base) and Amanda Sigulas is playing a good first base. We’re playing well defensively and we have to.”
Dubuque dropped to 18-11 overall and 3-7 in the league but Wares was impressed with the Spartans.
“ Dubuque’s a good team,” Wares said. “They’re definitely improved and these are two very big wins for us. But we’ve still got to keep working on our other pitchers because we’re not going to continue to do this (throw Fritz twice) the rest of the season.”
The road takes a nasty turn this week as the Dutch travel to Cedar Rapids to tackle No. 8-ranked Coe College in a 2 p.m. league doubleheader. The Kohawks were knocked off by No. 17-rated Luther College 8-4 and 11-1 (five innings) at Cedar Rapids Tuesday to drop to 28-7 overall and 8-4 in the league. Luther took over sole possession of first place at 11-1. But Wares said the Kohawks will present one of the season’s most challenging assignments.
“I know Coe well enough that after those two losses, they’re going to be ready to go,” he said.