Prep Softball

Lindsey Culver's homer sends Jefferson to 5A state softball semifinals

J-Hawks outlast Fort Dodge, 3-1, in 8 innings

FORT DODGE — The mentality changed for Lindsey Culver this season. Instead of a slugger, she wanted to become a hitter.

“I’ve been looking more for on-base percentage this year,” she said, after clubbing 19 home runs as a sophomore. “I’ve been aiming for more gap shots, more doubles.”

But the power, it never went away. It’s just been a matter of picking her moments.

And she picked it perfectly Tuesday night.

Culver ended a 10-pitch encounter with Fort Dodge relief pitcher Jalen Adams — and the ball game — with a dramatic two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning, sending fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson past No. 8 Fort Dodge, 3-1, in a Class 5A quarterfinal at the state softball tournament at the Rogers Sports Complex.

“(Jefferson Coach Brian) Erbe told me (Adams) was a riseball pitcher,” Culver said. “I kept focusing on driving my hands through it.”

Adams, an eighth-grader and the daughter of Dodgers Coach Andi Adams, came into the game after Kaylee Donner led off the bottom of the eighth with a single against Fort Dodge starter Bre Tjebben.

“It was the fourth time through the lineup of the best hitting team in the state,” Coach Adams said. “They were starting to hit it solid.”

Culver worked a 2-2 count against Adams, fouling off five pitches with two strikes.

“If I’m fouling it straight back, I’m just missing,” she said.

She didn’t miss the last one. The round-tripper was her ninth of the season and cleared the left-field fence by plenty.

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“I thought I got it all,” Culver said. “But I was still sprinting while I rounded first, because that’s what we’re taught to do. I saw it go over the fence, and I started screaming.”

Jefferson (35-8) advances to face No. 3 Indianola (35-3) in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Indians defeated No. 10 Dubuque Hempstead, 4-1.

State softball schedule

Forty Iowa high school softball teams will make their way to Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge next week for the 2018 state tournament.

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Erica Oler was magnificent in the circle for the J-Hawks, scattering five hits, just one in the final four innings. She struck out two batters and walked one.

“It wasn’t always pretty, but the defense had my back,” she said.

Jefferson struck first, when Oler’s double — combined with an error in left field — allowed Culver to score from first base in the bottom of the first inning.

Fort Dodge (35-8) got even in the third. Chloe Wertz led off with a single, then scored on Daphne Alstott’s triple.

“I thought I screwed up early,” Erbe said. “We kid of ran ourselves out of (the third) inning. If we could have gotten up 2-0 or 2-1 early, against a young team like that, it might have allowed (Oler) to relax a little.

“But she pitched outstanding.”

Oler retired the final seven batters she faced. Tjebben sat down 10 J-Hawks in a row before Donner’s sharp single to left to begin the winning rally in the eighth.

CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON 3, FORT DODGE 1 (8 innings)

Class 5A State Quarterfinal, at Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge 001 000 00 — 1 5 2

C.R. Jefferson 100 000 02 — 3 7 0

(No outs when winning runs scored)

Bre Tjebben, Jalen Adams (8) and Tristin Doster. Erica Oler and Hannah Markham. W — Oler (27-5). L — Tjebben (9-2). HR — CRJ: Lindsey Culver (9).

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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