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Oexle gives She-Devils needed lift

As much time and effort as coaches put into things, often times the difference between winning and losing can be a little dumb luck.

Suzanne Burrola can relate to that.

The first-year Merced College softball coach inherited a number of gaping holes on her roster after a big graduating class.

Knowing how daunting a task filling those holes would be, Burrola set to work on her first recruiting class.

When the dust finally settled, the She-Devil skipper had added five freshman and a couple sophomores from other MC sports.

It was a solid first effort to be sure, but despite all of Burrola's ground work, the jewel of her inaugural class was never recruited.

Burrola didn't even know the name Lindsey Oexle until one fateful phone call.

The sophomore pitcher was looking for a more competitive program after toiling away her freshman season with Feather River.

After making a few inquiries, Oexle was pointed in the direction of MC.

"She called me up and said she was interested in transferring," Burrola said. "When I heard she was a pitcher, I knew we couldn't pass her up.

"We'd actually faced Feather River early last year and she beat us, so I remembered her well.

"Lindsey coming here has been huge for us."

With a dynamic personality, Oexle wasted little time making herself at home at She-Devil Diamond.

Possessing an arsenal of junk pitches, Oexle has given MC the 1-2 punch it needed with fellow sophomore pitcher Ashley Franklin.

Just as important, the sophomore has provided some much needed command on a freshmen-heavy roster.

"Lindsey brought spirit, dedication and leadership," Burrola said. "Our freshmen had to learn what it takes to compete at the college level and she sets that example everyday."

The transfer has worked out better than Oexle ever imagined. The sophomore has opened the season 8-3 and helped change the team's perspective on the 2009 campaign.

"I didn't know much about Merced College," Oexle admitted. "I just knew the softball was better down here and that there were better feeder schools to four-year universities.

"The first time we had a team meeting it was a little nerve-racking because I didn't know anyone.

"But everybody made me feel welcomed and these girls are my best friends now.

"When I came in, it was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but we honestly believe we can defend our Central Valley Conference title."

The CVC is starting to believe as well.

With Thursday's eight-run, seventh-inning comeback win over Porterville, MC has run off seven straight victories heading into this weekend's Ed Anderson Classic.

The tournament was started last year by former MC softball coach Steve Cassady in memory of the beloved local umpire.

Burrola made sure the tournament continued.

"Suzanne is obviously putting her stamp on the program, but what pleases me is she's keeping the important MC traditions going," Cassady said. "Ed was a good friend to me, to Merced College and to the softball community.

"He's someone worth honoring."

The She-Devils will open the tournament on Saturday against Shasta at 10 a.m.

With games against No. 11 Cosumnes River and No. 13 Shasta, Burrola will see just how far her young team has come.

"We split with Shasta earlier in the year, but we've improved a lot since then," Burrola said. "This is a team that no longer puts its head down when we fall behind.

"They believe we can come back from anything now."

According to Burrola, a good deal of that attitude stems from Oexle.

"The other girls see how hard she works no matter the situation and they want to emulate it," Burrola said.

Not bad for a kid who had to recruit her own team.

Ed Anderson Classic

INFO: Saturday and Sunday at She-Devil Diamond.

SCHEDULE: Saturday: MC plays Shasta at

10 a.m. and Cosumnes River at 2 p.m.; Sunday: MC plays San Mateo at 2 p.m. and Cosumnes River at 4 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: MC enters the tournament having won seven straight.