PELLA—A sterling performance from starting pitcher Judson McKown (senior, Independence, Minn., Orono HS) in the opener and well-executed small ball in the finale gave the Central College baseball team a 4-0, 6-5 sweep of Iowa Conference opponent Luther College Saturday.
McKown tallied a career-high seven strikeouts in the opener's complete-game shutout and the Dutch (16-11 overall, 8-8 conference) manufactured the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth in the finale to dispatch the Norse (10-16 overall, 4-12 conference).
"The best thing about this week was that we won a couple close games," coach Adam Stevens said. "And the big difference was we executed. I'm really happy with how we competed.
"It was a really good team effort and those are two quality wins."
The first game was all Dutch, as McKown surpassed his previous-best strikeout total in the third and allowed only four batters to reach base in the seven-inning contest. In the process, McKown lowered his earned run average to a miniscule 1.42 over 38.0 innings pitched.
"We really wanted Judson to pitch the first game today," said Stevens. "It was a really important game. I felt like we needed to get back on the winning side and build some momentum. He helped us do that. He was as good as he's been this year. It was a great way to start the day."
Central's offense broke through in the bottom of the third. Shortstop Jordan Judkins (senior, Marshalltown HS) reached on a one-out walk and scored on third baseman Kirby Coppess' (junior, Urbandale) double to the left-center field gap. Next up was designated hitter Robbie Rushing (senior, West Des Moines, Valley HS), who earned his title with a towering home run over the right field wall.
The Dutch added one more run on a Luther error in the bottom of the fourth.
Coppess finished 2-for-3 with one run batted in and one run scored. Rushing was 1-for-3 with the two-run four-bagger. First baseman Grant Seuferer (senior, Milo, Southeast Warren HS)recorded Central's other hit.
Luther's Nate Whitham received the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks with one strikeout over 5.0 innings before being relieved. Three different Norse players tallied one hit apiece.
In the series finale, the Dutch moved runners around the bases the old-fashioned way. Central recorded 12 hits, only two of which were for extra bases, and five sacrifice hits.
"The wind picked up between games and we thought it would be tough to score," said Stevens. "So we did some things differently and it worked out."
The strategy culminated in the bottom of the eighth, as a leadoff double down the left field line by right fielder Andrew O'Toole (senior, Des Moines, Lincoln HS) turned into the eventual game-winning run. Left fielder Zach Zylstra (junior, Pella, Pella Christian HS)singled to right field, advancing O'Toole to third. Center fielder Jake Effron (senior, Glendale, Ariz., North Pointe Prep HS) sacrificed Zylstra to second before catcher Jace Ahrendsen (senior, Clarence, North Cedar HS)drove in O'Toole with a single to right field.
After loading the bases with no outs in the top of the third inning, starting pitcher Matt Schissel (sophomore, Rock Island, Ill., Alleman HS) struck out two batters and walked home a run before inducing an inning-ending pop up. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts over 5.0 innings.
In the bottom half of the fourth inning the Dutch evened the score. Second baseman Adam Ariola (senior, Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS) doubled down the left field line before advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Seuferer and scoring on a groundout by O'Toole.
Each team tacked on one run in the fifth before a three-run bottom of the sixth for Central appeared to put the game out of reach. Pinch hitter Zach Brown (freshman, Cedar Rapids, Xavier HS) roped a RBI single to right field, followed by a RBI sacrifice bunt by Ahrendsen and a two-out, RBI single by J. Judkins to left field.
The Norse responded, however, scoring one in the seventh and two in the eighth to even the score. But the tie didn't last.
"Luther deserves a lot of credit," Stevens said. "We won two in a row and jumped out to a lead, but they kept coming and made us earn it."
Pitcher Andy Carr (junior, Rockford, Ill., Rockford Lutheran HS) picked up his second win of the season in relief, while pitcher Rushing notched his first save of the season. Luther stranded the game-tying run at third base when Rushing ended the game with a strikeout.
O'Toole and Zylstra each finished with three hits, with O'Toole scoring two runs and Ahrendsen leading the way with two RBIs. Five different Dutch players scored at least one run, with five different players accounting for at least one RBI.
Luther's Cody Reimer was saddled with the loss after allowing two runs on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts over 3.0 innings in relief. David Lowe had three hits, while Eric Pittman and Carlos Pineda had two apiece. Pineda also had three RBIs.
"It's been a long stretch here," said Stevens. "We're going to take a couple days off, get re-energized and prepare for the home stretch."
Next up the Dutch conclude their eight-game homestand with a four-game series against Coe College (9-14 overall, 6-10 conference). Last season the Kohawks took three out of four from Central at Cedar Rapids.