CEDAR RAPIDS – Top-ranked West High headed to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday with a chance to put a stranglehold on the race for the Mississippi Valley Conference divisional title.
The Women of Troy left in a fight for the Valley Division crown.
Fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson swept West High in a Valley Division doubleheader Tuesday, pulling within one game of West High in the conference standings.
Jefferson rallied for wins in both games, winning the opener 7-4 and taking the nightcap 8-4, to hand West High its first two MVC losses of the season.
The sweep ran Jefferson’s MVC winning streak to eight in a row and improved the J-Hawks to 25-6 on the season and 17-3 in the MVC.
Jefferson pulled to within one game of West High in the Valley Division standings with six to play.
“It gets us within a game and that’s what I told the girls, the big picture is, yes, we did beat the No. 1 team in the state but it really got us back into the conference race,” Cedar Rapids Jefferson coach Brian Erbe said. “Now we just need somebody to step up and take care of West one time and we’ll hope to play well in our six conference games and get those wins.”
Tuesday’s sweep dropped West High to 24-4 on the season and 18-2 in MVC play and ran the Women of Troy’s losing skid to three after a 4-2 nonconference loss to Class 3A No. 2 Solon on Saturday.
“You can be frustrated with three straight losses, but we’ve played some great opponents and to be honest you look and we were in every game and had the opportunity to win every game,” West High coach Justin Lutjen. “We need to look at the positives and move on. We know what we do well and we just have to get back to it.”
West High held early leads in both games before Jefferson rallied.
The Women of Troy led 4-0 in the opener, but Jefferson would score seven unanswered runs.
West High scored a run without the benefit of a hit in the first inning and took a 4-0 lead on a three-run triple by Grace Tafolla in the third.
Jefferson answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning, the big blow being a three-run double by Kennedy Dighton.
The J-Hawks never trailed again, adding two insurance runs in the fourth.
West High had a base runner in each of the final four innings but couldn’t push a run across against Jefferson starter Alyssa Olson.
“They can swing the bat and they had a couple of innings where every pitch we threw they were right,” Lutjen said. “Unfortunately at the end of the games we couldn’t answer back.”
The nightcap was even tougher to swallow for West High.
West High scored three runs in the first inning and didn’t trail until Jefferson exploded for five runs in the sixth.
The J-Hawks sent nine batters to the plate in the five-run sixth, hammering six hits.
Tori Brandon, Erin Kuba and Lindsey Culver all had doubles in the inning.
“What can you say, we had a lot of great at-bats that inning,” Erbe said. “We talk a lot about situation hitting and we just had a lot of really good at-bats.”
West High had seven hits in the nightcap, but only managed a pair of singles over the final four innings.
Layne Whitehead led West High, going 1-for-2 with four RBI.
Taylor Libby and Taleah Smith each had a pair of hits for West High in the second game.
“We were really good for so long, in the back of your mind as a coach sometimes you think in the back of your mind about a lull in the season,” Lutjen said. “We were doing everything that we needed to do to be ranked No. 1 and we deserved it and these girls earned it, but during the course of a season you have to refocus and recommit and that is what we just talked about.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
West High…103 000 0—4 8 2
CR Jefferson…005 200 x—7 8 1
W—Alyssa Olson. L—Jessie Harder.
2B—Kennedy Dighton (CRJ)
3B—Grace Tafolla (ICW).
West High 301 000 0—4 7 3
CR Jefferson 102 005 x—8 13 1
W—Alissa Good. L—Layne Whitehead
2B—Laynie Whitehead (ICW); Lindsey Culver, Tori Brandon, Erin Kuba (CRJ)
3B—Erin Kuba (CRJ)