The wait is finally over for the Odessa College baseball team. The Wranglers open their 2019 season with a nonconference game against Howard College at 1 p.m. today in Big Spring.
It's a moment that both players and coaches have been waiting for.
"Everybody gets excited for this time of year," sophomore outfielder Mason McLenna said. "We're just ready to go out there and show what we can do."
"We're tired of looking at each other," head coach Kurtis Lay said. "We've been playing in intersquad for months without actually going to play someone else so we're looking forward to something new."
As Lay begins his fifth season at Odessa College, the hope is that they can get back to a championship level.
Last season, the Wranglers finished 34-25 last aseason after winning 46 games and the Western Junior College Athletics Conference title in 2017.
It's a challenge that the head coach has issued to his team and one that he believes that the team is ready for.
"The hopes are high," Lay said. "My challenge to the team is can we be the best team that's been through here the last five or six years."
In order to meet that goal, Lay says that the Wranglers will have a slightly different look.
Instead of being reliant on the home run ball, the plan is to use team speed and athleticism to its advantage.
"I think our overall team speed is a lot better than it's been in the past," he said. "We've played more station-to-station baseball waiting on that big home run. I think we'll be more aggressive on the base paths to pressure teams."
For freshman infielder Myles Jefferson, he sees that as one of his biggest strengths and is looking to use those abilities to help the Wranglers in 2019.
"When I get on base, I'm just looking forward to making things happen on the base paths," said the Katy native. "I'm just looking forward to getting started."
Jefferson will see a role as a middle infielder early on for the Wranglers, a part of the field that Lay says he'll be leaning on the freshman to step up.
"We're going to have a lot of freshman in the infield," he said. "If those guys figure it out and hold their own defensively, it's going to be huge going forward."
Even with the number of freshman that will be playing key roles, Lay is also encouraged by the number of sophomores returning to fill that leadership role.
McLenna is one of those sophomores, along with pitcher Noah Bartlett, expected to take on those roles.
"We've been through a lot as a team this and it's going to be fun to see everything come together," Bartlett said. "We're hitting a lot better and we have a lot of speed and depth. There are definitely a lot of strengths with this team."
There is always a sense of optimism when a new season begins but there is a strong sense of motivation at Odessa College.
Going back to the challenge issued by Lay, the players feel like they are ready to answer that call starting this weekend.
"We have a lot of young guys this year and I think we have the potential to be really good if we all work together," McLenna said. "Honestly, we can go as far as we went to."
"If we believe in the other guys, we can definitely do that."
ARTICLE BY- TONY VENEGAS:ODESSA AMERICAN