Rangers hungry for another tournament taste

"BREMERTON - You still couldn't describe the Olympic College fastpitch team as deep; a roster of 13 players doesn't allow that.But at least those days are gone when you had to refer to the Rangers as in too deep.Coach Natalie Martin's team is fresh off a fourth-place finish in last spring's Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) championship tournament. And the Rangers have their eyes on an even bigger prize - er, trophy - this year.They've been there, now, says Martin of a team that, just two years ago, could barely field the requisite nine players to start a game. One of our biggest things this year is that we feel like we should be there again. We expect to be there.There's no good reason the Rangers can't earn a spot in this year's NWAACC tourney, which takes place May 19-20 at Delta Park in Portland, Ore. Under a new playoff format this spring, four teams from the Northern Division, of which OC is one of nine members, will advance to the conference finals.And Martin obviously feels like she's got at least the team she had last year. Perhaps a little different team, style-wise, but of similar quality.Last year we might've had more offensive power, she says. This year, we're more of a singles, line drives, advance-the-runner type team. I'm pretty sure we have more overall team speed than we did last year.We do have some power, she says, pointing quickly to sophomore outfielder Holly Thatcher, a Central Kitsap grad who is one of six returners from last year's tourney squad. We don't have anybody like (2000 graduate) Stacy (Melton), who was a threat to hit it out every time she got up. But Holly's definitely got some power.For the most part, though, we're line-drive hitters, Martin says. We'll be able to do more things offensively, more hit-and-run, bunt-and-run. We'll take what the defense gives us.Defensively, Olympic will be strong again, with a mixture of returners and eager freshmen, most of whom can fill multiple roles, depending on the need and the situation. A season-ending injury to sophomore shortstop Saskia Ruud (North Kitsap) will hurt, but the Rangers still will be able to call upon solid players at every station, and are deep and versatile enough to survive the bumps and bruises that come with a schedule that includes 40-plus games.Infielders Heather Simms (South Kitsap), Stella Sebastian (Port Townsend) and Marci Halvorson (Chimacum) and outfielders Thatcher and Melonie Denny (SK) all have a year's NWAACC experience, as do pitchers Megan Lynn (North Kitsap) and Rachel Brassel (Bainbridge).Both Brassel and Lynn have added significant velocity to go with their control since their high school days, and should give OC a more-than-adequate 1-2 pitching punch.Among the newcomers, infielder Mary Davenport - a three-year starter at second base for Klahowya - and outfielder Aubrey Sumner - a starter for CK's third-place state Class 4A tournament team last spring - should make significant contributions. A pair of Katies - Bainbridge's Katie Leigh, who plays both infield and outfield positions, and Port Townsend infielder Katie Delaney - also will see plenty of action. "

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