COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Lady Wranglers reflect on successful season

It was a new season with a new coach and new players.

Yet, at the end of the day, the Odessa College softball team did what it usually does: win the Region V West Tournament and advance to nationals.

The Lady Wranglers’ season came to an end with last week’s losses to Temple College and Trinidad State at the NJCAA World Series in Oxford, Ala.

However, there was plenty for head coach Doug Eastman and his players to feel good about this season as Odessa College finished the spring 43-14 overall, 23-1 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

It wasn’t always easy for the Lady Wranglers this season, who started off 15-11 before conference play began.

Still, Odessa College managed to turn things around and cruise through conference play before easily clinching the Region V West title.

“I think it was a fantastic year,” Eastman said. “Quite frankly, everyone came together and we really overachieved.”

Not only that, but the team had to navigate through the season with a pitching staff of only two players, Avery Truss and Mia Perez.

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

“We went the entire year with two pitchers. That’s very difficult to do. Most of the teams that make it far in the tournament usually have at least four pitchers, with the exception of Indian River which rode their one pitcher which you have to give all the credit to in the world. But you need to have depth in pitching and we knew that. We knew that there would be a time in the national tournament where we would probably have to bow out because we didn’t have anybody else to go to. But our pitchers gave it all they had. I think it was a fantastic year, considering the circumstances.”

Indian River State ended up defeating McLennan College in the national championship, winning both games by a score of 6-5 and 3-0 last week.

It was the first time since 2019 that someone other than Florida Southwestern State won the NJCAA World Series.

The Lady Wranglers would help eliminate Florida Southwestern State this year, defeating the Buccaneers 12-7 last week in the first round and sending them to the losers’ bracket.

Florida Southwestern State would end up losing to Galveston College in an elimination game last week, ending the school’s three-year-run as national champions.

It was sweet revenge for not only the Lady Wranglers, who had lost to Florida Southwestern the last two years at nationals, but also for Eastman who’s former team, Yavapai College, lost to the Buccaneers two years ago.

“That felt pretty good,” Eastman said of last week’s win. “I’m still feeling the high. I think everybody else was happy that we beat them and get some new blood in there. But that felt good. They got us pretty good when I was at Yavapai. A little revenge never hurts.”

Odessa College defeated Howard College in the Region V West championship game 23-3 on May 11 at Maner Park in Lubbock to punch its ticket to nationals.

The Lady Wranglers finished first in the WJCAC regular season standings, ahead of rivals Midland College.

“It felt like it was an obligation,” Eastman said. “Anytime you go to a program that’s had a ton of success, you want to keep that success going. I didn’t know if it was going to be possible because of all the setbacks that we’ve had during the season with the pitching circle. Again, kudos to these ladies for working hard and never giving up. It’s exciting because this was such a young group. Having eight out of nine freshman in the starting lineup should strike fear in the rest of the conference and the nation next year.”

With so many players expected to be back next year, there’s a lot of optimism in the air as the Lady Wranglers hope to go further in the national tournament.

“It’s huge to have that kind of experience where everybody’s back in the position that they’ve played (this year),” Eastman said. “They’ve been to the national tournament. They know what it takes. We know as coaches what it takes and we feel that we’ve solidified our weakness with our roster and we have all the tools and the parts that it should take to win it next year so we’re excited about that.”