It’s become a habit at this point.

The Odessa College softball team, once again, finds itself heading back to the NJCAA World Series for the fourth consecutive year.

This time, the Lady Wranglers did it with a new coach.

Last year, former head coach Jeff Jackson left to take over at the NCAA Division I level at Stephen F. Austin.

Now, Odessa College head coach Doug Eastman is making the most of his first season in charge of the Lady Wranglers as the team has maintained its status quo of being the best in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

“You don’t know what to expect when you come into a new program,” Eastman said. “You don’t know what the talent level is or if they’re going to buy in. but it’s a great feeling to get here and know that our team and our program is doing great right away. We’re only going to get better.”

The Lady Wranglers (41-12) captured their fourth consecutive Region V West Tournament championship after defeating Howard College 23-3 in the final last Saturday at Maner Park in Lubbock.

Odessa College’s Reganied Franka slides into third during the first inning against Clarendon College Thursday at the Wrangler Softball Complex. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

Prior to that, Odessa College recorded victories of Howard College (in the second round) 9-2 and a 7-3 win over rivals Midland College in the semifinals during the double-elimination tournament.

The Lady Wranglers will enter this year’s tournament as the No. 13 seed and will open up against No. 20 seed Trinidad State at 11 a.m. Monday at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala.

Both teams will have the honor of playing the first game in the tournament.

Trinidad State (37-14) enters the tournament having won the Region IX title against Otero College last week in a doubleheader, winning by scores of 9-1 and 8-6.

It’s a slightly different seed that the Lady Wranglers are used to, having been the No. 1 seed in last year’s NJCAA World Series but No. 13 is where Eastman predicted Odessa College would land.

“Yeah, I figured we’d be somewhere between 12 and 15,” Eastman said. “That’s fine. We have the play-in game. We kick off the tournament. I think we match up really well against Trinidad State. I’m looking for good things to happen.”

At times this season, things did look bleak for the Lady Wranglers.

All but one of the Lady Wranglers’ losses came in the nonconference portion of the season as the team faced heavy competition during the early stage of the season.

However, it wasn’t long after conference play began when the Lady Wranglers found their footing.

The team finished conference play with a 23-1 record, capturing the WJCAC regular season title for a third consecutive year.

The only loss was a 9-3 defeat against Midland College back on April 5.

Since then, the team has won 16 straight.

“To me, I know of all the hard work our players have put in,” Eastman said. “They have great character and do well in the classrooms. They do things the right way. For me, to see the freshmen have this opportunity to go and see what nationals are about is great. Even the sophomores who didn’t get much playing time last year, they’ll get a chance to play in the main event. I was telling our two pitchers that they went last year but this year, they’re on the main stage so that’s pretty exciting.”

Odessa College’s Tyerra Kaaialii (10) gets a hit in the first inning against Clarendon College Friday at the Wrangler Softball Complex. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

The Lady Wranglers have cruised through the season with a two-pitcher staff including Avery Truss (20-6) and Mia Perez (18-5).

The two players have gotten better since the season started.

“With those two, what you’re going to get is they’re going to put a few runs up on the board,” Eastman said. “Their ERAs in conference have gotten a lot better because they’ve matured. But they’re going to put four or five runs up on the board so it’s our job to score more. It’s our job to get up to the plate and show off what we can do, offensively. But those two are competitors. They’ve been that way all year. It was pleasing to see both pitchers on the All-Region list.”

Eastman knows the Lady Wranglers are going to need to score runs to help back up their pitching staff at next week’s tournament.

“I think we have to score runs and play defense,” Eastman said. “We don’t have the pitchers that are going to throw nine stakeouts, 10 strikeouts. They’re going to get in the zone and give us a chance to win, but we have to put ourselves in a position to win and score runs.”

Odessa College’s Mia Perez pitches in the first inning against Midland College Friday at the Wrangler Softball Complex. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

The Lady Wranglers certainly been dominant on offense this season, putting up 609 runs total with 618 hits, 166 doubles, 16 triples and 105 home runs with 555 RBIs.

Freshman Mason Barclay currently leads the nation in batting average with her .558.

She’s had 57 runs with 72 hits from her 129 at-bats this season.

Barclay also has 17 home runes with 71 RBIs.

It may go without saying, but the team also needs to avoid the losers’ bracket at all costs because with two pitchers, there’s not much room for error.

Odessa College softball players warmup before their game against Clarendon College Thursday at the Wrangler Softball Complex. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

“Let’s just get true here, you have to win games,” Eastman said. “We have to play one game a day. We got to make sure we don’t play two games in a day. That’s just going to wear us down. We have to play well every single time we go out and if we do that, I’ll try to be as crafty as possible to get the one that feels the best at the time to get them in and we may have to split them up just because of the heat. We have to keep them fresh.”