Coming into last weekend’s games, six Iowa Conference schools knew they’d be competing in the Iowa Conference Tournament. While the field of teams may have been set, the seeding was a totally different story.
Wartburg and Coe knew they’d be locked into the one and two spots, but the four remaining teams — Central, Buena Vista, Luther and Loras — came into the weekend separated by only a handful of games. Regardless of what happened last weekend, each game would have huge implications on the conference seedings going into the tournament.
The Duhawks took on Central Friday and Saturday to wrap up their regular season. The Duhawks split their series with the Buena Vista Beavers earlier in the week, but struggled in each of their games against the Dutch.
Despite a solid performance by senior pitcher Adam Schwoebel, the Duhawks fell in Game 1, 1-0. Schwoebel pitched six innings and struck out three, but a sac-fly by Central in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference. Loras batters managed only four hits in the game.
The Duhawks’ defense struggled in Game 2, committing five errors that led to two unearned runs. Senior pitcher Will Petrosky took the loss, despite striking out six through six innings. Loras scored two runs in the top of the eighth, but their rally fell short, as Central took the second game, 5-4.
It was deja-vu for the Duhawks on Saturday. Loras dropped Game 3 in extra innings, 1-0, despite a memorable performance from junior Alex Steines, who pitched nine scoreless innings and struck out 11 before yielding the winning run on a controversial balk call. The bats were cold once again for the Duhawks, who recorded only one hit in the game.
Just as they did in Game 2, the Dutch took the final game of the series, 5-4, to sweep the series and drop Loras into the sixth seed. The Duhawks were betrayed by their defense once again, as a throwing error following a sacrifice bunt allowed the walk-off run to score in the bottom of the eighth.
Thursday marks the opening of the Iowa Conference Tournament for the Duhawks.
“We’re coming in with a sense of urgency against Central because of last season and how we played this past weekend,” said Walsh. “We know we’re a better team that can perform way better than we did this past series.”
This time last season, the Duhawks opened the Iowa Conference Tournament with a 5-4 win over Simpson, but fell to the Buena Vista Beavers 6-1. They then eliminated Simpson with a 12-1 win before Central ended the Duhawks’ season with a 7-2 win in the semifinals.
“We know that these games mean way more than the regular season,” said Walsh. “But we aren’t putting any extra pressure on ourselves. We know we are fully capable of beating every team and we just need to have fun this weekend.”
The Duhawks will head to Cedar Rapids for their opening game on the Central’s home field, Veterans Memorial Stadium. Opening pitch is set for 1:00 p.m.
“We just need to have fun and play our game and we will be successful,” said junior Patrick Walsh.