CEDAR RAPIDS — Erica Oler has adjusted splendidly to an increased workload this season.
For the fifth time this month, the Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior pitcher was called on to start two games on the mound in one day. For the fifth time this month, she won both starts.
“I just try and build up my stamina so I can pitch those long innings,” Oler said after the Class 5A fifth-ranked J-Hawks swept Iowa City High, 2-1 and 9-2, in a Mississippi Valley Conference softball doubleheader Tuesday night at Niemeyer Field. “Since I have done it several times before, I am kind of used to it now. I am a little worn out.”
Last season, Oler and her older sister Emily combined for 44 starts. With Emily Oler now at Mount Mercy, Erica has started 21 of 32 games for the J-Hawks this season and has posted a record of 19-3, which equals the win total from her junior campaign.
“She tries to take as much time off as she can and rest her arm,” Jefferson Coach Brian Erbe said. “She is very, very athletic and she does such a great job of taking care of herself. She knows that we’re probably going to jump on her back and she’s ready for that challenge.”
Oler surrendered runs in the opening inning of both games, but settled in quickly and kept the Little Hawks off the scoreboard after the first frame.
Game 1 went into extra innings tied at 1-1 until Jefferson junior Gabby Zach ripped a two-out, two-strike double into left field that scored junior Lindsey Culver from first base for a 2-1 victory in eight innings.
“I was just looking for my pitch and being patient,” said Zach, who hit her first home run of the season in the second game. “I just sat back and caught the ball.”
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Oler – a UNI signee – yielded just three hits and struck out 10 batters in the eight-inning opener, then fanned five more in Game 2.
City High scored twice against Oler in the first inning of the second game, but the J-Hawks extinguished the deficit with runs in four different frames, including a three-run third inning and a four-run sixth.
“We really work on relaying pitches back and forth coming into the dugout,” said Culver, who tied Game 1 with an RBI double and reached base five times in the two contests. “Just relaying pitches, talking and communicating with each other on what she is pitching, so we could jump on top.”
At the plate, Oler singled four times and drove in two runs in the doubleheader. Senior Liv Erickson scored four runs, including three in the second game.
Freshman Carey Koenig homered in the first game and added an RBI groundout in the second for City High (19-15, 14-8), which started a pair of freshmen pitchers – Ayana Lindsey and Ella Cook – in both games.
Jefferson has won 14 of its last 15 games and will host top-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy in another sizable MVC doubleheader on Thursday.
The Cougar hitters should expect a heavy dose of No. 22.
“Yeah, I’ll probably pitch both,” Oler said.
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