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Sierra can find room for softball hitter

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Ashley Osier started late with Sierra College’s softball team after arriving in January. Her new teammates had been practicing for three months, leaving her little time to make a first impression. The freshman transferred to Sierra from Sonoma State University as coach Darci Brownell was figuring out her lineup. With freshman Michelle Fogal at third base, Osier had to play the waiting game. A calf injury knocked Fogal out of action in February, however, and created an opening for Osier. All Osier has done since breaking into the lineup is hit .429 with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI. “She hit the ball when she first got in (the lineup) and she hasn’t stopped,” Brownell said. Osier leads the Wolverines (29-11) in most every offensive category. She is the member of the team with more than 60 at-bats who is hitting higher than.400. Opponents have taken notice of Osier’s productivity at the plate by opting to walk her frequently. By drawing a team-high 18 walks, Osier’s on-base percentage is a team-leading .516. “They’re walking her more now than they’re pitching to her,” Brownell said. Now that Fogal is healthy, Brownell has the flexibility of having Osier pitch and Fogal play third base. The lineup has become a juggling act for Brownell, but “it’s nice to have those problems.” Osier’s availability as a pitcher has lightened the load on sophomore Ashley McMahon. Brownell would rather not rely on one pitcher, although McMahon has started 22 of Sierra’s 40 games. McMahon has pitched in 25 games overall, posting a 17-6 record. She tossed a two-hitter and struck out nine Tuesday afternoon as Sierra defeated American River 3-1 in its Big 8 Conference finale. The win was Sierra’s sixth in a row and boosted the Wolverines’ Big 8 record to 15-6. Sierra shared second second place with Sacramento City. Osier gives Brownell another arm, along with sophomore Carlie Nicodemus and freshman Katelyn Bell. Bell is 5-1, Nicodemus 4-1 and Osier 3-3. They have combined to pitch 116 innings to 144 for McMahon. “They all want the ball,” Brownell explained. “We’re rotating them. We’ve been going with pitching by committee. That’s a big reason why (McMahon) is not burned out at this point of the season.” “This point” for the Wolverines is the Northern California playoffs. Sierra will be a host team in the first round, which begins May 7. The postseason is nothing new for Brownell, who has had her teams reach the playoffs in each of her 12 seasons. She had no doubt the streak would continue in 2011 even after her team’s 4-5 start. “We don’t play easy teams,” Brownell said. “We’ve beaten some of the best teams in the state. We lost three times to (San Joaquin) Delta, but nobody in the state has beaten them this year.” Delta is 37-0 and shut out Sierra twice, the only times the Wolverines have been blanked this season. In the RPI rankings by jcscores.com, Sierra ranks fourth in Northern California and 11th in the state.