Showing no lingering effects from its recent slide, the Iowa Central baseball team rose to the occasion on Friday.
After dropping four of their previous five games entering play, the 18th-ranked (NJCAA Div. II) Tritons (27-13 overall, 12-6 in the ICCAC) responded with a sweep of No. 12 and league-leading Southeastern at Ed Barbour Field.
Scores were 7-5 and 8-2.
"It was a pretty good day at the ballpark," ICCC head coach Rick Pederson said. "I thought we played some of our best baseball of the season for 16 innings. We were very sharp (Friday) in all phases of the game, which was encouraging to see."
In the opener, Iowa Central erupted for four runs in the third inning and three more insurance scores in the fifth.
Nate Steger and Christian Montero each collected a pair of hits out of the No. 5 and 8 spots in the lineup, respectively. Montero and Jason Galeano added two RBI apiece, while Damian Rutherford swiped two bases. Eight different Tritons managed at least one hit, with doubles coming from Rutherford and Montero.
IOWA CENTRAL 7, SOUTHEASTERN 5
Southeastern 000 002 030-5 7 1
Iowa Central 004 030 00x-7 10 3
Gage Carpenter (L, 5-4; 5 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), Peyton Johnson (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) and Tommy Breunig; Alex Hayden (W, 7-1; 8 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), Luke Vandermaten (S, 9; 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and Christian Montero.
2B-S: Jay Feliciano, Breunig (2); ICCC: Damian Rutherford, Montero. MH-S: Breunig (2); ICCC: Nate Steger (2), Montero (2). SB-ICCC: Rutherford (2). CS-ICCC: Noah Pickard. LOB-S 8; ICCC 7. DP-S 1, ICCC 1.
IOWA CENTRAL 8, SOUTHEASTERN 2
Southeastern 000 200 0-2 4 1
Iowa Central 205 100 x-8 11 0
Justin Hill (L, 6-2; 3 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), Connor Shull (1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K), Ryan Santos (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K) and Eden Cranston; Ryan Boelter (W, 5-2; 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), Jordan Jacobson (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) and Montero, Kirk McLeod (7).
2B-S: Hector Viera, Feliciano; ICCC: Rutherford, Jason Galeano (2), Steger (2), Pickard, Tyler Franko. MH-S: Viera (2); ICCC: DeJesus (2), Galeano (3), Steger (2). SB-ICCC: Tanner Buenting. LOB-S 6, ICCC 8.
"Offensively, we were able to drive in guys once they got to third base, and (situational hitting) is always big," said Pederson. "We're showing improvement in that area, but we just need to do it more consistently."
Posting the win on the mound was ace right-hander Alex Hayden (7-1), who scattered seven hits and three earned runs over eight innings of work. Hayden walked two and fanned five. He has now allowed just 46 hits in a team-high 51 1/3 innings on the year. Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Luke Vandermaten retired the side in order in the ninth for his ninth save of the season. The Iowa Hawkeye recruit owns a miniscule 0.42 ERA this spring.
"I thought our pitching was excellent," Pederson said. "Our starters Hayden and (Ryan) Boelter threw the ball especially well again. Vandermaten has also been a reliable closer for us all season long."
Tommy Breunig had two doubles, three RBI and a run scored for the Blackhawks (28-13, 13-3), who saw their six-game winning streak halted.
With all the momentum on its side, Iowa Central pulled away in the nightcap behind a five-spot in the third, sending nine batters to the dish. Noah Pickard highlighted the frame with a two-run double to right-center field.
Galeano, a first baseman, finished a perfect 3-for-3 offensively, including two doubles, two RBI and a run scored. Indiana State signee Andy DeJesus and Steger both delivered a pair of hits as well. Tanner Buenting and DeJesus each came home twice, while Steger drove in two. Seven of the 11 Triton hits were actually two-baggers.
"We looked much better (yesterday) than we did last weekend (in losing three of four contests at Kirkwood)," said Pederson. "This team is just very inexperienced, so you can expect (ups and downs). We still have some more growing up to do."
Southpaw Ryan Boelter (5-2) registered the victory, yielding four hits and two earned runs - with three walks and three strikeouts - in five innings. Jordan Jacobson, another lefty, also sent down all six hitters he faced out of the bullpen.
Hector Viera was 2-for-3 for Southeastern, while Jay Feliciano knocked in two.
Iowa Central outhit the Blackhawks in the twinbill, 21-11. Both teams turned one double play.
"It was good to get two wins to kind of push us right back in the thick of things," Pederson said. "Granted, we still have to come out and take care of business (today)."
With the sweep, the Tritons improved to 14-3 at home this season.
Iowa Central and Southeastern will square off again here today. First pitch is set for noon.