by Brent Hovey

Reporter

Aurora -- The Greenmen softball team started the season with a lot of question marks and uncertainties.

They had only three players back with extended varsity experience, while the core of the team had little to no varsity experience. The roster featured only two seniors.

Coach Terry Bartlett, who has decided not to return to coach the team next year, knew the young girls had talent, but wasn't sure if they would play up to their ability.

After nine games, the season looked lost, with an 0-9 record and a team that looked like it would never gel.

A tough 4-3 lost to West Geauga on April 17 and a 3-0 lost to Kenston the next day seemed to define the whole season. The girls played hard, but couldn't pull out a win.

On April 19, the Greenmen won their first game 5-4 over Wickliffe. The 'W' column was empty no more and it put a spark into the girls.

After a loss to league champ Kenston, Aurora beat Orange 9-4, a win that gave the Greenmen confidence to finish the season strong. Their overall record ended up being 7-13.

"The beginning of the year was very frustrating; 0-9 is no way to start a season," said head coach Terry Bartlett. "But when it's all said and done, I couldn't be more proud of how we finished."

Bartlett said the turnaround was all because of the team growing up and coming together.

"WE CAME on strong and grew as a team," he said. "We matured as individuals, but more importantly as a team.

"They took ownership of the team and started to see what [assistant coach] Todd Turner and I were telling them all along -- to believe in themselves and they have talent.

"Is it the year we wanted recordwise? No. But it was very rewarding based on the team's desire and commitment to finish on a positive note."

Bartlett added he thinks the girls just got sick of losing and once something good happened -- a hit here, a good defensive play there -- it was a domino effect.

Some highlights of the second part of the season -- there weren't too many in the first half -- included Libby Swanson blasting four home runs, almost all just over the fence in left-centerfield.

"Just being able to attack and not quit is the biggest highlight -- the joy and reward of seeing them turn it around and see them mature," Bartlett said.

Lindsey Colangelo and Lauren Hartman were the lone seniors. Colangelo was the returning shortstop while Hartman came off limited pitching appearances in 2006.

"Lauren did a good job," said Bartlett. "She threw her heart out every game. Early in the year she didn't get the support she needed and it was tough.

"She came on strong. Making second team [All-CVC] is a very nice compliment since two of the best pitchers in Northeast Ohio made first team. Offensively, she really hit the ball well.

"Lindsey has been a rock. I don't feel she ended the season offensively like she wanted to. She pushed too hard at times, but she's a very complete player."

SWANSON highlighted the underclassmen with her power at the plate. As good as she was batting, Bartlett was just as impressed with her defense. A catcher by trade, she had to fill in at third.

"She's never played third before," he said. "I stress defense and at times it was a challenge for her and looked uncomfortable.

"But she really played well, and now she has two positions she can play. She's got a bright future."

Dana Bartlett, Aurora's second baseman, earned her second first-team all-CVC.

"She's a three-year varsity player and to go back-to-back first-team is great," said her coach. "She batted .333, but I'm more proud of her .941 fielding percentage."

Making a splash in their first year of varsity play were sophomore centerfielder Chrysa Kovach and freshman catcher Amanda Saykes.

"Overall, it was a great group of girls," said Bartlett. "It was very rewarding to see them pull themselves from the dirt. The second half can carry us into next year."

However, Bartlett will not guide the team in 2008. He resigned after four years as coach.

"I decided not to come back for personal reasons," he said. "I feel it's the right time to close this chapter of my life. It's been a great experience and I feel good in what we accomplished here."

"We've turned the program around. I think in a short period we were able to stand up and have other teams take notice."

E-mail: bhovey@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3115