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OC baseball streaks into conference play
Perhaps the Olympic College baseball team found its stride at the perfect time.
The Rangers (12-9), who completed their non-conference schedule with a 15-1 win against Centralia March 26 and begin conference play in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) tomorrow, have won four games in a row by a combined score of 40-10.
The 12-9 record is a far cry from last year’s team, which lost its last nine games to finish 16-29. In 2007, the Rangers were 2-45-1 overall, 0-22 in league play and failed to win a game at home.
“Things are going pretty well, especially lately,” third-year coach Ryan Parker said Wednesday. “We were playing .500 ball. Now the bats are starting to come around and we’re winning games we didn’t win before.”
Parker, who graduated from Bremerton High School (BHS) and played three seasons on the varsity baseball team under then-coach Mike McKnight during the 1990s, said he’s been particularly impressed with his team’s ability to hit in the clutch.
Sophomores Jared Munson and Jesse Cummings are hitting .338 and .328, respectively, with Cummings having 14 RBI, tied for the team-high. Freshman Jared Vera is hitting .412 with six doubles and Tyler Sartor, a freshman and South Kitsap graduate, is hitting .357.
Parker said he’s been “really surprised” with the production he’s received from freshman Chris Reilly, who, along with Vera and Sartor, has emerged as a reliable freshman bat.
“There are quite a few guys who are swinging well,” Parker said. “What’s encouraging for me is some of our sophomores have struggled at the plate, but the freshmen have picked up the slack.”
The Rangers’ recent success has been contingent on a combination of clutch hitting and quality pitching; the team has scored six-plus runs in 10 of the 12 victories, including an average of 10 over the past four games.
“In our wins, we’re putting up maybe seven-plus runs. In our losses, it’s around three runs,” Parker said. “In our losses, we’re not hitting with runners in scoring position. That makes a big difference.”
But hitting is only half the story; the Rangers have allowed 42 total runs (3.5 per game) in the 12 wins, as opposed to 64 runs (7.1 per game) in the nine losses.
Vera, who Parker said could “very easily be 5-0” is 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA. Freshman Josh Rubideaux is 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA.
“Those two guys have really gone out and thrown a lot of strikes and given us a chance to win each time they take the mound,” Parker said.
Parker also credited relief pitchers Zack Stiles, a sophomore who is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA, and Ryan Hastings, also 1-0, for pitching well out of the bullpen.
“Everyone is playing with confidence now,” Parker said. “We are starting to realize our potential.”
The Rangers should learn how they stack up against the rest of the NWAACC when they open conference play tomorrow with a doubleheader against North Region foe Skagit Valley, which is 15-1 overall and 4-0 in NWAACC play.
After Skagit Valley, no other team in the North Region has won more than 14 games or lost more than 10.
“I think now more than ever the league is pretty even. The league has finally evened out this year,” Parker said. “I think the four teams playing the best ball at the end of the year are the teams that will make the playoffs.”
The first game of tomorrow’s doubleheader against Skagit Valley is at 1 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Both games are at Legion Field.
OC visits Skagit Valley for another doubleheader Sunday, with Game 1 beginning at 1 p.m.
The Lady Rangers are 3-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play after six regular-season games, sitting in a tie for third place in the NWAACC North Division behind first-place Everett (5-6 overall, 2-0 NWAACC) and Shoreline (9-7, 3-1).
Coach Jessica Cabato’s team will participate in the Skagit Valley Tournament in Mount Vernon tomorrow and Sunday before facing Peninsula (2-10, 2-4) at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The next home game is at 2 p.m. April 14 against Skagit Valley (1-3, 1-1) at Legion Field.
OC has won three of its past four games after starting the season 0-2.