The Rangers returned to the NWAC Championships for the first time since 2016 and will face No. 7 Big Bend Friday morning.

BREMERTON — It’s been a few years since Olympic College qualified for the Northwest Athletic Conference softball tournament.

The year was 2016 to be exact.

But that drought is over now.

The Rangers play at 10 a.m. against Big Bend at Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane and are confident they can give the NWAC’s seventh-ranked team a run for its money.

Olympic College coach Eric Buss said taking the team from the bottom half of the North Region to the top half in one year is significant.

“We’re trying to rebuild this program like it was a few years back,” he said, adding making the playoffs is a big recruiting draw. “We don’t want to be a bottom dweller. We want to be at the top all the time.”

Olympic College softball coach Eric Buss guided the Rangers back to the NWAC Softball Championships for the first time since 2016. The Rangers face Big Bend at 10 a.m. Friday in Spokane. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Olympic College softball coach Eric Buss guided the Rangers back to the NWAC Softball Championships for the first time since 2016. The Rangers face Big Bend at 10 a.m. Friday in Spokane. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

The last time the Rangers came back to Bremerton with hardware was after winning it all in 1981. 

Olympic’s season started slow with a win here and there. It didn’t kick into gear until the Rangers (20-21 overall, 17-15 conference) earned a split with No. 1 Bellevue College which also handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. The 9-8 victory in the second game — Amanda Givens capped a three-run rally with a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning — sparked a seven-game winning streak that vaulted the Rangers into second place in the North.

Unfortunately, Olympic couldn’t sustain it and lost six straight before pulling out crucial wins late in the season to snag a playoff spot.

“For me, it was a little disappointing to go from second place to fourth place in a matter of a week,” Buss said.

His players were disappointed too but put it behind them with a sweep of Everett to finish the regular season.

Sophomore third baseman Taylar Clark said having a short roster meant the ups and downs in the season were bound to happen.

“I definitely think we’re on the upward (swing) again,” she said.

Clark said from day one the goal was to qualify for the conference tournament.

“From fall we just worked really hard … we put it all out there,” she said.

For freshman shortstop Natasha Vincett qualifying for the NWACs was an expectation met.

“I see a lot of potential in our team,” she said. We just have to put it all together on the field. I was really excited because my neck of the woods (Kittitas High School in Ellensburg) is also on the other side of the mountain, so that’s exciting for me.”

Natasha Vincett of Olympic College throws toward first during a NWAC softball game Saturday, April 20, 2019 at Gene Lobe Fields at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Natasha Vincett of Olympic College throws toward first during a NWAC softball game Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Gene Lobe Fields at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

What Olympic needs to make sure to bring to Spokane is its hitting, which is its strength.

“We just have to really focus on that it’s the same stuff, just a different place,” Vincett said. “It’s the fundamentals. Do what you know.”

The team has a .349 batting average and is ranked second in the conference in triples (15 conference, 17 overall) and eighth in the conference with 115 extra-base hits. Mechelle Nisbet leads the team with a .426 average and 47 RBIs. Alexandra Paulino leads OC with eight home runs followed by Vincett and Nisbet’s six each. Kylie Tasaki, who is second on the team with a .406 average, is also the triples leader with five.

Olympic College sophomore Mechelle Nisbet leads the Rangers with a .426 batting average and 47 RBIs. Olympic qualified for the NWAC Softball Championships for the first time since 2016. The Rangers face Big Bend at 10 a.m. Friday in Spokane. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Olympic College sophomore Mechelle Nisbet leads the Rangers with a .426 batting average and 47 RBIs. Olympic qualified for the NWAC Softball Championships for the first time since 2016. The Rangers face Big Bend at 10 a.m. Friday in Spokane.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

With the power that is available at the plate, the Rangers could surprise some teams this weekend.

“It’s a new season, it’s a short season now,” Buss said. “It could be a two-game season, it could be a six-game season, it could be an eight-game season. They control their destiny.”

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