COLLEGE BASEBALL: OC hoping to make a run in postseason

Jan. 30—Despite returning five players from last year, the Odessa College baseball team will be looking to make some noise this season as the Wranglers hope to make a run at an NJCAA tournament bid.

Head coach Kurtis Lay returns for his tenth season at Odessa College. The Wranglers are coming off a 37-23 showing from last year that ended with a 9-0 loss to New Mexico Junior College in the Region 5 tournament.

"Everyone is ready to get going," Lay said. "We've been out here practicing since August. We had our fall season and picked up a few new guys here at Christmas break. We're just trying to figure out what we have and what roles guys fit in to. I'm excited for us to be playing someone else and flipping the scoreboard on."

Odessa College will begin its 2024 season this week with a single game against Navarro College at 2 p.m. Friday at Cructcher Scott Field in Abilene.

Both teams will face each other again at 2 p.m. Sunday in Abilene before the Wranglers face Grayson College at 5:30 p.m. that same day.

Odessa College brings back Antonelli Savattere-who played second base for the Wranglers last year-as well as Charlie Collins in left field and Angel LaSalle.

The Wranglers also bring back Steve Villarreal who was a designated hitter for Odessa College last spring as well as Cort Pryor.

"I do think we're going to have some diversity in the lineup," Lay said. "We're going to have some guys with some speed that can move some runners and put some pressure on defense. I feel like we have some physical guys in the lineup who are going to be double homerun type guys."

It's a difficult conference and region that the Wranglers find themselves in as No. 3-ranked Weatherford College looks to repeat as regional champions.

Only the Region 5 title winner advances to the NJCAA College World Series baseball as there are no at-large bids.

Lay knows how much of a challenge that can be as there are no shortage of good teams in the WJCAC as well as the rest of Region 5 including New Mexico Junior College, Midland College and McClennan Community College.

However, Lay is hopeful that the nonconference schedule can help bring his team up to speed.

"We're going to be battle-tested in our first three games," Lay said of this weekend's opening games against Navarro College and Grayson College. "Then we'll go to Houston and face Wharton and Galveston. I think it's going to be a good task. We have Colby Community College coming in that won three out of four against us last year ... it's going to be a lot of good baseball against a lot of good teams."

The Wranglers' first home game will be at 12 p.m. Feb. 16 against Seward County Community College at Wrangler Ballpark in a doubleheader.

Odessa College will officially begin WJCAC play against New Mexico Military Institute on March 15.