MCC to face Ellsworth in first round of postseason

The Marshalltown Community College softball team racked up a program-record 30 wins this season under first-year coach Tyrone Robinson.

And that helps the Tigers match their best seeding ever for the 2014 NJCAA Region XI Division II Softball Tournament this week.

MCC (30-16, 16-10) will be the No. 4 seed for the tournament and will face fifth-seeded Ellsworth in the opening round of the double-elimination format at 1 p.m. Thursday at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.

It is the second straight season that the Tigers have been the four seed for the tournament. MCC, which also won a program-record 16 conference games, lost its only game of a rain-shortened tourney last year to North Iowa Area Community College and is 1-2 against Ellsworth all-time in the tourney.

MCC won the regular season over Ellsworth (9-20, 8-16) three games to one and won the most recent tournament game, a 10-7 victory in 2011. The Tigers swept the Panthers in the most recent doubleheader, 4-2 and 5-0, but are just 8-19 all-time in the regional tournament.

The other 1 p.m. game Thursday will pit top-seeded Kirkwood (49-6, 22-2) against eighth-seeded Iowa Lakes (15-29, 3-25).

The Kirkwood-Iowa Lakes and MCC-Ellsworth winners will meet in Round 2 at 3 p.m. while the losers will play an elimination game at 1 p.m. Friday.

The other first-round matchups feature third-seeded Iowa Central and sixth-seeded Southwestern and second-seeded Des Moines Area Community College taking on seventh-seeded NIACC.

Both of those games will be at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The Tigers enter the postseason having won 12 of their last 14 games. The only losses during that stretch came in a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the top-seeded Eagles.

MCC’s hot streak was aided by two solid pitchers in the circle.

Sophomore Sarah Wilson has won 15 games this year and led the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference in strikeouts during the regular season with 192.

Her earned run average also is just 2.86 in 139 2/3 innings.

Fellow sophomore Mackenzie Gott (6-3) has won five of her last six starts, recording a 2.05 earned run average while fanning 45 batters in 34 innings.

Gott and Wilson combined to strike out 24 Ellsworth batters in the most recent meetings on April 26. Wilson fanned 13 in her seven innings during the 4-2 win, while Gott got 11 of her 21 outs by strikeout and held the Panthers scoreless in the 5-0 victory.

While those two sophomores have done plenty of damage in the circle, Lexie Biehl has consistently led the Tigers at the plate in 2014. The freshman shortstop leads the conference in hitting at .513, on-base percentage at .571, hits (78) and doubles (21). She also ranks in the top 15 nationally in all four categories.

Biehl also has driven in a team-high 60 runs and scored a team-high 51 on her own.

Tacie Blunk also has swung a hot bat lately. She enters the tournament with a .417 batting average and a .541 on-base percentage. Lead-off hitter Brooke Dunkin is batting .412, gets on base 45 percent of the time, has a team-high 25 steals and scored 48 runs. Wilson and Biehl both have a team-high eight home runs, while Holli Baker is hitting .409 with seven dingers.

Lindsay Barnhart’s .394 batting average and two home runs leads the Ellsworth offense.

Kelly Sykes is hitting .388 and has scored a team-high 28 runs and also has 24 RBIs. Aimee Madrid has driven in a team-best 28 runs and is hitting .373.

Barnhart has thrown a team-high 99 innings in the circle and leads the team with a 4.38 earned run average. She is 3-7 on the season.