Despite saving its best for last, the Iowa Central softball team was ousted by third-ranked Kirkwood in the opening round of the NJCAA Div. II Region XI Tournament here Monday afternoon.
Falling short for a ninth straight game, the eighth-seeded Tritons (13-36 overall) saw their frustrating season come to an end in a 6-0 blanking at Rogers Sports Complex.
"I felt we played the best we have all year," ICCC head coach Josh Sandin said. "For the most part, we were able to keep (the Eagles) off the scoreboard. We ran a defensive shift with five infielders around 75 percent of the time, and they hit into it a lot. We just made a couple of costly errors and didn't execute at different points."
Kelsey Penneau and Sammie Hildreth each delivered singles for the only Triton hits. Iowa Central, which committed six errors, stranded runners on second base in both the first and sixth innings.
No. 1 seed Kirkwood (49-3) plated three unearned runs in the third and never looked back. Krysta Tutsch went deep for the Eagles, while Shelby Crist added a double.
"I was really proud of how hard we fought (yesterday)," said Sandin. "Kirkwood is probably the best offensive team in the nation (the Eagles came in averaging 9.2 runs per contest), so we have nothing to hang our heads about."
KIRKWOOD 6, IOWA CENTRAL 0
Iowa Central 000 000 0-0 2 6
Kirkwood 003 021 x-6 5 1
Paige Prokop, Mackenzie VanDenBerg (4) and Sammie Hildreth; Shyanne Saladino and Krysta Tutsch.
2B-K: Shelby Crist. HR-K: Tutsch.
Shyanne Saladino went the distance in 30th shutout of the year for Kirkwood, which extended its victory streak to an impressive 42 consecutive games. The Eagles, who went a perfect 28-0 in league play during the regular season, swept all five meetings this spring from the Tritons.
Penneau, Mackenzie VanDenBerg and Shayla Simms (Twin River Valley) all wrapped up their Iowa Central careers on the diamond.
"There was a point this year where we had to change some of our goals from possibly winning a national championship to representing Iowa Central the best we could (six Triton players were dismissed from the team midway through the season due to disciplinary reasons)," Sandin said. "We've got a good core coming back next year, and I think they'll be motivated by this."