Small College Sports

Coe vs. Luther softball: Pitchers' duel expected for nationally-ranked clash

Coe is ranked eighth, but No. 17 Luther leads A-R-C softball standings

CEDAR RAPIDS — Runs could be hard to come by when Coe and Luther face off Tuesday.

Pitching has powered both of the nationally ranked programs and current American Rivers Conference leaders.

Expect a low-scoring affair when eighth-ranked Coe hosts No. 17 Luther for an A-R-C softball doubleheader at Clark Field, beginning at 2 p.m. The Norse sit atop the league standings, owning a one-game edge on the Kohawks.

Luther (25-4, 7-1 A-R-C) boasts the A-R-C’s top staff with a 1.39 earned-run average. Coe (28-5, 8-2) is right behind at 1.59.

“It’s always going to be a pitchers’ duel anytime we play Luther,” Coe Coach Diane Meyer said. “They always have good pitching. They’ve got three solid pitchers. We’ve got two that have won quite a few games for us this year.”

Aces could be the trump card, assuming both take the circle in the opener. Luther’s Sam Bratland is 14-3 and has posted a microscopic league-best 0.58 ERA. Coe’s Alyssa Olson has similar numbers with a 16-1 record and 1.12 ERA. Both have a penchant for strikeouts. Olson has 162 in 112 1/3 innings, while Bratland has 90 in 97 1/3.

“I just focus on what I can control and that tends to be what works best for me,” Olson said. “I just worry about what I can do, how I can go about attacking hitters and how I know I can get a pop fly or a ground ball for my defense and they will have my back and do their job.”

Batters will catch a break in the nightcap. Coe’s Bailey Smith is 10-4 with a 1.97 ERA. Courtney Cooper has a 7-1 mark with a 2.28 ERA and Kendra Cooper is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA for the Norse.

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“We know we have to be defensively sound,” Olson said. “We know giving up free bases is definitely something we want to avoid. We know we have to take full advantage of any free bases we get and work hard to get those earned bases.

“Definitely, going into it, pitchers in the circle know we have a big leadership role to take on (Tuesday) to carry the team.”

“They bring in a really good record, a good coach and good players,” Meyer said. “We have a history of pretty good battles with each other, so it will be fun.”

Coe swept a regular-season twinbill in Decorah last season, but Luther claimed the conference tournament title with a win over the host Kohawks. A sweep for either could be a big step toward being able to win the regular-season title and become the conference tournament host.

“We’re going into this, knowing there is always a good rivalry between us and Luther,” Olson said. “We’re not going to go into it as anything different. We are going to treat it like any other game.”

Meyer said the Kohawks are worried about themselves. They want to continue to improve over the final six regular-season games in a tough conference race that tightened after last weekend.

“We are focused on us playing better as a team,” Meyer said. “If we play better good things will happen for us, hopefully.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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