Bartow Focused on Season After 2012 Heartbreak
Mon. February 18, 2013 at 2:33 a.m. | By Aimee Sachs
From left, senior third baseman Rachael Imig, senior pitcher Lauren West and senior center fielder Cheyenne Blaha are returning starters for Bartow. (Photo by PIERRE DUCHARME | THE LEDGER)
By AIMEE SACHS | THE LEDGER
Two outs, top of the seventh, runner on second: With the count 1-2 on Tampa Chamberlain's Madison Gonzalez, Bartow was one strike away from winning the 2012 Class 7A state championship.
Lauren West, then a junior, had just thrown a no-hitter against Tallahassee Chiles in the state semifinal the night before.
But this time, her riseball didn't rise high enough.
Gonzalez blasted a two-run homer to left-center — her second of the game — and just like that, Bartow's 8-7 lead turned into a crushing 9-8 defeat. It was the second straight year the Yellow Jackets had fallen just short of the state title.
"Just seeing that, it kind of broke my heart," said senior Cheyenne Blaha, who transferred to Bartow from Frostproof last year and was in center field when Gonzalez's home run left the yard. "We were so close. It really hurt."
The end result was not indicative of West's season. West had 162 strikeouts in 144 innings and posted a 1.51 ERA.
"I'm not really going to change anything," West said of her approach this season.
Bartow coach Glenn Rutenbar doesn't want his team to dwell on last year's heartbreak, but at the same time he hopes it's in the back of his returning players' minds.
"That's a tough feeling to lose that way," he said.
With a handful of starters returning, the Yellow Jackets welcome seven up-and-comers who have been inserted into the heart of Bartow's lineup, including freshman catcher Lexy Sims, who is batting cleanup. Another youngster, shortstop Tonee Fabrizi, occupies the No. 3 spot in the Yellow Jackets' lineup.
Despite his team's youth this year, Rutenbar sees a well-rounded squad.
"We feel like we have good pitching and depth, and I feel like we can catch the ball, too," he said.
Blaha, who will play for the College of Central Florida next year, has been passing on the seniors' mindset to their younger teammates.
"Win a couple games but don't get too excited," she said. "Focus on the game that you're playing right now."
But, of course, their eyes are still on the prize — a state title.