COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Odessa College sets high expectations despite youth

The start of a new season brings plenty of hope and opportunity and a chance for growth.

For the Odessa College softball team, those opportunities will be plentiful early on.

Junior college athletics see plenty of turnover each season, but the Lady Wranglers have to deal with a little more than usual.

The team returns just three players from last season’s sophomore-heavy roster and for second-year head coach Jeff Jackson, the theme for this year’s squad is being ready when called on.

“The key thing is having those freshmen grow up pretty fast,” Jackson said. “They’re going to be playing some important roles for us, so they’ll need to step up.”

Even with the number of new faces, expectations are still high after Odessa College finished 39-14 a year ago.

The Lady Wranglers will rely on a number of those freshmen, but for the sophomores coming back from last year’s team, they can see what the future is in store.

“Leadership comes from experience and there is definitely that responsibility to lead by example,” sophomore infielder Cami Deanda said. “I think we have a chance to do well. The goal is to be a national contending team and that’s what we expect and hope for.”

“Having that one year of experience makes all the difference in the world,” Jackson said. “Those sophomores can lead by example and show everyone how things are done in our program. Our freshmen have been able to latch on to that.”

Jackson is confident that his team can get things going on the right track early and sees pitching as one of the strengths of his team early on.

He hopes that the production in the circle can help get things going for the rest of his team.

“We have four pitchers who can flat out compete,” Jackson said. “I’m really happy with how our offense looks and our defense is solid. I think it’s just going to come down to just how well each pitcher goes out and competes every single game.”

One freshman expected to make her mark in the circle is freshman pitcher Cori Turner of Georgetown. Turner will also see time in the infield as well for the Lady Wranglers, but she says that she’s ready to help the team any way she can.

“I just get really excited to finally start playing ball,” Turner said. “I think it’s all going to pay off heading into this season.”

The Lady Wranglers will get some good early tests starting this weekend as the team hosts McLennan College today and the defending NJCAA champion Temple College on Saturday at Wranglers Field.

Odessa College will host the Permian Basin Invitational the following weekend.

It’s a tough slate but one that Jackson hopes will prepare his team for conference play and help them meet the high expectations for the season.

“The competition will be tough,” Jackson said. “But I think it definitely helps being at home to start the season. Everything that matters is in conference and the only way to go the national tournament for us is to win that conference tournament.

“We may run into some tough games and hard challenges along the way but no matter the outcome, it’s going to prepare us to go win the conference.”

>>Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas