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Lights out: OC baseball opens strong

Ranger Rusty Hill crosses the plate for one of OC’s three runs in a 3-0 win against Pierce on Sunday. - Photo by Wesley Remmer
Ranger Rusty Hill crosses the plate for one of OC’s three runs in a 3-0 win against Pierce on Sunday.
— image credit: Photo by Wesley Remmer

By WESLEY REMMER

Staff writer

The Olympic College Rangers baseball team checked last year’s two-win season at the door, opening the 2008 campaign with two wins in three tries in back-to-back doubleheaders against Green River Community College and Pierce Community College last weekend at Legion Field.

And if it weren’t for a neighborhood agreement stating the Legion lights must remain off until April 1, OC would have (officially) won a third game.

On opening day Saturday, OC held a commanding 12-1 fourth-inning lead in the second game of the double-dip against Green River, but after darkness fell and the lights remained off, the game was called due to darkness.

OC manager Ryan Parker said the game may or may not be rescheduled.

“If it is,” he added. “I’m going to fight for that 12-1 lead.”

Fortunately, bright and sunny Game One provided enough excitement for a day at the ballpark.

After falling behind 11-7 after eight innings, the Rangers scored five runs without committing a single out in the bottom of the ninth inning, rallying for a come-from-behind victory.

Freshman outfielder Rusty Hill provided the heroics.

After the Rangers scored two quick runs and loaded the bases in the final inning, inching within 11-9, Hill stepped to the plate, worked the count and hit a base-clearing, three-run double into right-center field, knocking in the winning runs.

“I was looking fastball,” Hill said of the winning at-bat. “I got one and just took it to right (field).”

Hill picked up three RBIs on the hit and redeemed himself for what had been a poor day at the plate. Prior to the ninth-inning at-bat, Hill was 0-for-4, including two strikeouts.

“I was having a rough game before that (at-bat),” he said. “I was just looking to make contact and keep the inning going.”

The Green River victories not only prove OC can compete with any team in the league, but give Parker bragging rights over Green River manager Matt Acker, who also manages the Kitsap Blue Jackets.

Parker will join the BlueJackets coaching staff in June, coaching alongside Acker for the first time.

“I’ll get to coach with him this summer,” said Parker, who will be the BlueJackets’ first base coach.

“It’s fun going up against him,” Parker said. “Matt’s a great guy.”

Acker has built the GR program into one of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College (NWAACC) premier teams, finishing last season with a 34-18 overall record.

“He’s built that program into a powerhouse,” Parker said. “He’s guy I can look up to and mold our program after.”

OC followed Saturday’s success by splitting games against Pierce, during the weekend’s second doubleheader.

The win, a 3-0 shutout in the nightcap, came on the arm of sophomore pitcher Blaine Holbrook.

Holbrook scattered three hits over six innings, striking out four in his first victory of the season.

“I had a new pitch, a slider, working,” Holbrook said of his performance. “And my fastball was there.”

But Holbrook attributed his effectiveness to the defense, which played error-free ball after struggling in both the GR games and the first Pierce game.

The Rangers committed seven errors in the 12-11 GR win and committed three more in Game One against Pierce, losing 12-7.

“The defense was the difference,” Holbrook said after the 3-0 victory, adding that the outfield made game-changing plays. “Defense makes pitching, and as long we play (defense) we’re going to win games.”

And while the Rangers are off to a good start, Parker, too, believes the defense needs to improve.

“We’re not quite where we need to be,” he said. “Defensively we need to be better.”

Despite the sloppy defense, Parker believes his team will eliminate the errors, remaining competitive all season.

“These guys are a confident bunch,” he said. “We can be a dangerous team in this league, and we’re going to approach every game like we’re going to win.”

Hill also is confident the 2008 squad will put last year’s dismal 2-46 record to rest.

“Last year was last year,” he said. “We know we can compete with all these teams.”

The Rangers kept the momentum going Wednesday, sweeping Centralia in another doubleheader. OC took the first game in a narrow victory, 7-6, and doubled Centralia, 8-4, in the night cap.

In the first win, freshman Zack Stiles (Houston) got the win, recording three strikeouts. In the second victory, it was sophomore Colby Robinson, out of Peninsula High School, earning the win, striking out six.

The Rangers (4-1) host Everett today at 10 a.m. and Thompsons River at 4 p.m. Both games are at Legion Field.

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