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IOWA CITY — Back-and-forth evolved into back-to-back.
Adara Opiola’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning tied the game, then Taylor Libby followed with a game-winning bomb as Class 5A fifth-ranked Iowa City West prevailed in a slugfest of a first game, 10-9, over No. 9 Cedar Rapids Jefferson Tuesday night at West High School.
“That was one of the most intense games we’ve had all season,” said Opiola, who blasted two homers and drove in five runs in the first game. “(Jefferson) always comes to play. They have incredible bats.”
So does West.
“The best in the state, we think,” Opiola said.
After an opener that featured 33 hits and three lead changes, Jefferson’s Emily Oler restored order somewhat as the J-Hawks salvaged the Mississippi Valley Conference split, 4-2.
“Emily’s not a big strikeout pitcher, but she got a lot of ground balls and we made the plays,” Jefferson Coach Brian Erbe said.
As a result of the split, West (25-7 overall, 20-2 MVC) is in a first-place tie with Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the Valley Division. Both teams have four league games to play.
“We don’t talk about the conference much,” West Coach Justin Lutjen said. “If we play our best ball at the end of the season like we should, everything will take care of itself.”
West rallied from deficits of 4-0, 8-6 and 9-7 in the opener. Brylee Klosterman started the seventh-inning uprising with a single, then Opiola followed with a home run off the roof of the shed beyond the fence in right-center field. Then it was Libby’s turn, a shot to left to win it.
“We never stopped fighting,” Opiola said.
Jefferson’s Kennedy Dighton said, “We knew they weren’t going to go away. They’re a very good hitting team. It was back and forth the whole way.”
Dighton homered in both games.
“I was just trying to go up there and help the team,” she said. “It was good to get the second one.”
Dighton’s two-run homer in the first inning put Jefferson in front in the nightcap, and this time the J-Hawks held on. Oler didn’t strike out a batter, but scattered four hits and walked just one, retiring the final nine batters she faced.
“I can’t fault our at-bats in the second game too much,” Lutjen said. “We were swinging the bats, but just hitting the ball hard right at them.”
Klosterman, an eighth-grader, homered in the second game for West.
IOWA CITY WEST 10-2, CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON 9-4
At Iowa City
C.R. Jefferson 220 013 1 — 9 17 2
Iowa City West 002 131 3 — 10 16 2
Erica Oler and Hannah Markham. Jessie Harder and Taylor Libby. W — Harder (11-3). L — Oler (13-2). HR — CRJ: Kennedy Dighton (5); ICW: Adara Opiola 2 (9), Taylor Libby (6).
C.R. Jefferson 202 000 0 — 4 9 0
Iowa City West 011 000 0 — 2 4 3
Emily Oler and Hannah Markham. Abby Henderson and Taylor Libby. W — Oler (7-3). L — Henderson (8-3). HR — CRJ: Kennedy Dighton (6); ICW: Brylee Klosterman (3).
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