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Rangers hoping to find some heat
"BREMERTON - Legion Field doubleheaders in March - when the breath of winter still blows in like a frigid hand-slap off Port Orchard Bay - don't sound like much fun. They're tediously long, it's bitingly cold and the games don't count in the standings.But the early-season twin bills are Corky Franklin's friends.The third-year coach of the Olympic College baseball team said his team will be constructed from what he sees - or rather by what his young players show him - during the chilly marathon sessions.We're trying to look at a lot of people during this time, says Franklin, whose teams have been caught in the pack the last two seasons of Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Northern Division competition. There are a lot of chances right now for people to show their wares.If last Saturday's Legion Field split with visiting Shoreline - a 3-2, eight-inning victory in the first game and a 7-2 loss in the nightcap - is any indication, what Franklin will be looking for the most is consistency. In fact, the Rangers' early-season schedule - three splits in three doubleheaders - would seem to illustrate a penchant for on-again, off-again play.It's been that kind of season so far, and I don't know why, Franklin says. He added that it would behoove the young Rangers to play a little hotter while the weather's cold.We've only got two more doubleheaders left, and then league starts, he said, adding that players who haven't shown him anything by that time might see their playing time diminish.OC, Franklin says, isn't the kind of team that's going to skate through the NWAACC season on its sheer ability - not by a long shot.Don't make too much of our talent, he cautions. We're OK. We're not going to dominate anybody, and we're not going to overpower anybody.We're the kind of team that needs to come out and play well.In other words, the 2001 Rangers are a lot like last year's model, with perhaps a little less experience and a bit more depth. When OC executes and hustles, it'll be in a lot of ball games. When it doesn't, well ... that's when Franklin's stare can turn as icy as that swirling winds that can turn March doubleheaders into agonizing ordeals.Franklin has a lot of sorting out to do before the conference season begins March 28. Of the 26 players on his roster, only eight are sophomores. Of that group, several were more role players than regulars, and will have to battle along with the incoming freshmen for playing time.We've got a few guys who are probably going to have to be on the field most of the time for us to have much success, Franklin says, including sophomores Ryan Donaldson and Doug Brisbon and freshman Shaun Marshall on the short list he clicks off. Other than that, there's a lot to be decided.Donaldson and Kyle Baumgartner, sophomores from Olympic, both look like they could be key components for the Rangers - Donaldson as a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder and Baumgartner on the left side of the infield. Brisbon and Ryan O'Connell, both North Kitsap products in their second years of OC eligibility, will be counted on at shortstop and behind the plate, respectively.On the mound, Donaldson is joined by Central Kitsap's Chris Skilbeck, Sequim's Jim Shier and North Thurston's Matt Densley as the sophomore contingent. Shier is the lone left-hander in that group, so there could be innings available for newcomers like CK's Eric Dickinson, Oly's Jon Clapper and Lake Washington's Colin King, provided they earn them.Offensively, Marshall - a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Juanita - already had established himself as a force before last Saturday's brace of games against Shoreline. He improved his credentials in the opener, driving in all three runs with a home run and two-run double in the eighth that rescued the Rangers from a 2-1 deficit.In general, Franklin seems to have roamed farther afield in his recruiting efforts. Clapper, Dickinson and Bremerton catcher Spencer Stark are home-grown, but the team also includes players from far-flung stations like Marysville (Jeff Carlson), Everett (ex-Kamiak pitcher Tyler Boyer) and, of all places, Chugiak, Alaska, which yielded not one, but two players - freshman siblings Joe and Josh Wilson.What the Rangers lack, first and foremost, is experience. That, in addition to their purpose as a protracted audition, is what the doubleheaders are for, Franklin says.It gives our guys a chance to play and get ready, he says. "