Tritons split in home softball debut

Making its 2013 home debut, the Iowa Central softball team flashed glimpses of potential here Tuesday in an ICCAC split against Ellsworth at chilly Rogers Sports Complex.

After halting a nine-game league losing streak with a 6-4 victory in the opener, the Tritons (12-22 overall, 2-10 in the ICCAC) suffered a 10-1 five-inning setback in the nightcap.

“I thought we did a lot of things well for the first five innings in the first game (ICCC built a 5-0 advantage entering the sixth), and we played exactly how we needed to play,” Iowa Central head coach Josh Sandin said. “In the second game, though, we made a couple of costly errors (the first four Panther runs were all unearned) and started to feel sorry for ourselves, which you just can’t afford to do. There were also some close calls that didn’t go our way.”

Shayla Simms (Twin River Valley) and Haley Rustvold (Fort Dodge) each delivered a pair of hits in the first contest. Simms added two runs and two stolen bases, while Rustvold tallied an RBI and crossed the dish once. Katie Newbury also drove in a pair, and Jamison Koethe came home twice.

Mackenzie VanDenBerg (3-9) went the distance in the circle, scattering 12 hits, four earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts. She retired the side in order in both the second and fifth frames.

“(Mackenzie) threw the ball pretty well,” said Sandin. “She keeps getting more confident (in the circle).”

Defensively, the Tritons gunned down three Panther baserunners at the plate, with two of those coming for the final two outs of the game on a rare 9-4-2 double play from Koethe to Jess Frahm (Prairie Valley) to Sammie Hildreth.

Ashley Eisenbraun and Sydnay Lehman contributed three hits and a run apiece for Ellsworth (7-16, 3-9), which outhit Iowa Central in the twinbill, 21-13. Eisenbraun clubbed a solo longball to left field with one out in the sixth.

In the finale, the Tritons were held to only three hits, including a perfect 2-for-2 effort from Koethe. Hildreth, a cleanup hitter, foiled Nicole Festge’s shutout bid with a deep shot over the center-field fence in the fourth.

Kaitlynn Morrison (0-3) took the loss, yielding seven hits and two earned runs over 2 2/3 innings of work. Morrison walked two and fanned three.

Kelly Sykes and Cayla Bantz both produced two hits for the Panthers, who snapped a five-game slide. Bantz chipped in four RBI, while Sykes scored three times.

Iowa Central also received a scare when Rustvold, a second baseman, was injured while diving for a pop fly in the sixth inning of game one. Rustvold was carted off the field with an apparent concussion.

“I wish it could’ve been a little warmer (yesterday), but it was nice just to actually be able to play outside let alone at home,” Sandin said. “We’re still not even halfway through the conference season yet, so we just need to continue to improve every single day.”

The Tritons return to the diamond this afternoon, hosting Southwestern (15-9, 8-6). First pitch, weather permitting, is set for 3 p.m.