Natural ability carried Erika Osherow to elite status as a freshman for Darien High School’s softball team, and a relentless work ethic made her an immediate star in a conference where stardom does not come with such immediacy.
So what would appear a shocking sudden ascension this year to the average onlooker probably comes as little surprise to those who observed Osherow’s scholastic career. Osherow committed to play at the University of Virginia after her sophomore year, and was expected to redshirt this year. Instead, she is the Cavaliers’ starting pitcher.
Rather then needing a season to get acclimated to the college game, Osherow in 12 months has gone from trying to solve St. Joseph’s batting order to facing nationally ranked teams.
“I think I’m just more surprised at how I am learning so much,” Osherow said last week during a telephone interview. “Work off the aspect of playing to everyone’s strength on the team to help you as a pitcher whereas in high school it’s a pitchers’ duel.”
Osherow concluded her career for the Blue Wave with staggering senior-year numbers: an 0.68 earned run average and 210 strikeouts on the mound; a .571 batting average, 36 hits, 35 runs, seven home runs, 31 RBIs, a .663 on-base percentage and 1.079 slugging percentage at the plate.
Going from that high to a transitional year can be humbling, but consistent with her approach Osherow was mentally prepared to make the best of adjusting to playing for Virginia.
“This is a great opportunity, there is so much time, four years, lets see how much better personally I can get,” Osherow said. “Going in with that mindset I took a different turn. Now you have an opportunity to play. There are three other pitchers here too as well and I wasn’t like let me try to beat them out. Lets see how much better I can perform so that next year there would be no question. If I was to redshirt it is putting in the effort and you can earn that starting position.”
The Cavaliers were in need of a starting pitcher after twins Alex and Andie Formby opted to transfer following last season. Osherow was part of a freshman class that included two other pitchers. She watched the first two tournaments during the fall season on the bench.
“It was definitely hard when you are with your teammates and you’re not playing,” Osherow said. “It kind of killed you inside.”
Osherow made a strong impression in the third tournament and afterward was approached by Blake Miller, the Cavaliers’ coach.
“He asked if I would you like to play this year and I said ‘What do you mean, that would be awesome,” Osherow recalled. It’s just making that mental transition. You’re going into college thinking I’ll have a year to develop, get stronger, all good and to be making that next transition and now you’re playing, you have opponents you’ve got to take into consideration, you have all the stress that comes with actually playing. I’m just more into taking every day at a time. When I wasn’t going to play I was trying to find the positives.
Miller remembered coming up to Connecticut to see Osherow play at the suggestion of one of his assistants.
“We really just wanted her to redshirt so she could get used to the freshman lumps without it costing her a year,” Miller said. “The thing about Erika is how hard she worked and how determined she is. I knew she would be able to pitch but she just worked really hard at it.”
Heading into a three-game weekend series against North Carolina, Osherow has a 10-17 record and 3.18 earned run average for the Cavaliers (13-27). In limited opportunities at the plate, she is batting .219 with two home runs and seven runs batted in.
“I think I’m just more surprised at how I am learning so much,” Osherow said. “Just the level of play. The challenge in itself. You attack hitters and everyone knows every other players’ names in the league, who the big-time hitters are, so coming in as a rookie, a freshman, learning who those hitters are and how you should face them. What do I have now they haven’t seen before? Everyone knows how to play the game. It’s those small little details that can make a difference. Stealing bases, getting rundowns, these little plays that are simple parts of the game but can really be game-changing.”
Miller said Osherow has been equally impressive off the field.
“The thing about Erika is not just how good a player she is but how good a person she is,” Miller said. “That’s what really stands out. We knew she was good enough.”
Osherow said she has been able to take a step back and appreciate her change in status since the fall and how she has capitalized on it.
“It is always crazy to think about what could have been if I had been redshirting and now just focus on what the next game is, what the next challenge is,” she said. “What’s the next goal? Looking at everything it’s cool. To see how you progress as an athlete and working with my teammates and meeting all these girls, I consider them now my sisters. Being in that whole environment. I almost don’t have enough words to describe it. It has just been the coolest experience.”