Even though the Odessa College softball team split the first half of its four-game series against Howard College, head coach Jeff Jackson told his players to keep their heads up and focus on the positives.
“I think it was really important that they never gave up, they fought until the very last out,” Jackson said. “It’s a tough doubleheader and they did such a good job of staying in it the entire time and that’s what we want to focus on.”
No. 18 Odessa College started on the right foot with an 8-2 victory over fourth-ranked Howard College, then fell 12-11 to close out a Western Junior College Athletic Conference doubleheader Monday at the Wrangler Softball Complex.
Hunter Harkrider got the Lady Wranglers on the board first in Game 1 with an RBI single to left field.
That was quickly followed up by a three-run homer from Marijn Crouwel to put Odessa College up 4-0 in the first inning.
Odessa High alum Kaylean Ayala increased the Lady Wranglers advantage when she reached home plate in the bottom of the second to put her team up 5-0.
The Lady Hawks got on the scoreboard in the fourth when Sasha Willems singled to left field, driving in Barbora Saviola to cut the deficit to 5-1.
Although Howard College (30-2 overall, 22-2 conference) got some hits later in the contest, it wouldn’t be enough as the Lady Wranglers added three more runs to their lead. The Lady Hawks managed to score one more time before the series opener ended in seven innings.
Crouwel went 1 for 2 at bat, leading the Lady Wranglers with three RBIs.
Aydenne Brown had another strong performance in the circle, pitching a complete game with 10 strikeouts while allowing six hits.
The Lady Wranglers (30-8, 19-5) couldn’t maintain momentum in Game 2.
Treyana Timai and Olivia Vargas got the offense started for the Lady Hawks with two doubles in the top of the first, with each driving in one run to stake Howard College to an early 2-0 lead.
Saviola extended the advantage with a three-run homer to left field in the top of the second. Laela Minnich immediately followed that play with a solo home run, putting the Lady Hawks up 6-0.
The Lady Wranglers responded quickly in the bottom of the inning when Reagan Hillis hit a three-run homer to cut into the lead.
The Lady Hawks seemed to be in firm control of the game through five innings with a 12-6 lead, but Odessa College made things very uncomfortable for the visitors, scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to one (12-11).
Even with the late rally, Howard College held on to split the doubleheader.
Hillis led the Lady Wranglers with four RBIs in the second game, while Saviola and Willems led Howard College with three each.
Jackson said any time the Wranglers face off against the Hawks, it provides competitive matchups.
“Everybody wants it, emotions run high sometimes and I think sometimes it’s about who can control their emotions in the moment on the field,” Jackson said. “Both teams did a good job of competing and it’s exciting to watch.”
Howard College head coach Kelly Raines said it was great to have a rivalry aspect show up in the doubleheader. She wants to see her team have a stronger outing against Brown when it sees her next.
“They have a really good pitcher and we respect her, we’ve got to do a better job against her,” Raines said. “Our pitcher struggled a little in the first and second inning of the first game; our pitcher has got to do a much better job.”
The Wranglers and Hawks close out the four-game series with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Wrangler Softball Complex.
>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya
Howard College 2-12, Odessa College 8-11
Howard………. 000 100 1 — 2 6 0
Odessa………. 410 102 x — 8 9 0
Kristen Martinez and Sasha Willems. Aydenne Brown and Megan Knapp. W — Brown. L — Martinez. 2B — Odessa College: Kaylean Ayala and Hunter Harkrider. Howard College: Barbora Saviola. HR — Odessa College: Marijn Crouwel.
Howard………. 242 220 0 — 12 15 3
Odessa………. 031 205 0 — 11 14 0
Jasmine Blizzard, Kylie Gaffney (6), Kristen Martinez (7) and Sasha Willems. Morgan Brandon, Fadwa Ben Karim (2), Alyssa Barrientez (4) and Marijn Crouwel. W — Blizzard. L — Brandon. 2B — Odessa College: Reagan Hillis. Howard College: Olivia Vargas, Treyana Timai, Macey Meraz and Willems. 3B — Odessa College: Alyssa Deanda. HR — Odessa College: Illy Cisneros (2), Hunter Harkrider and Hillis. Howard College: Barbora Saviola, Laela Minnich (2) and Willems.
Records — Odessa College: 30-8 overall, 19-5 WJCAC; Howard College: 30-2, 22-2.