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'Everything mattered' as Bartow walks off Doral Academy in 6A Semis

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Bartow's Destiny Driskell smiles in triumph after pushing across the game-winning run to push the Lady Jackets past Doral Academy.

CLERMONT — When Bartow long-time head coach Glenn Rutenbar was ejected in the first inning of Friday’s Class 6A State Semifinal, the Lady Jackets’ mission quickly came into focus. There was another huge reason to fight for a victory – to avenge a tossing that they felt unjust.

Rutenbar argued a check swing call that would’ve struck out Doral Academy third baseman Sarah Breaux. Instead, she sent a towering line drive over the left field wall for a two-run homer. As the Firebirds celebrated from home plate, the Bartow skipper walked out of the dugout and argued with the home plate umpire, who promptly threw him out of the contest.

“We didn’t think it was right,” said assistant coach Carl Howell, who finished the game as acting head coach. “We sat there and came together and said we could pass blame around because of what happened, or we could do something about it. We weren’t going to win the game by blaming the umpire.”

Against Doral Academy starting pitcher Yessenia Lopez, the Lady Jackets could only put together one productive inning in its first time through the order. McKenzie Gibson was hit by a pitch and Katelynn Oxley singled to center to put two on, but couldn’t get them in.

Second time through, Bartow started putting bat-to-ball and struck for a huge run that would later give them the opportunity to tie it and take it.

Gibson tripled to start the inning, her second three-bagger of the year, and it was a huge one because it set the Lady Jackets up with a runner on third and loads of ways to score her.

After hitting .257 in her sophomore year, Gibson’s turned it on as a junior, setting a career high in just about every statistical category you can think of. Howell said it was as simple as being shorter to the ball that’s helped her be a major contributor to the Jackets’ offense.

“So proud of her,” Howell said.

Frustration continued to mount for Bartow in the sixth when she was called out on strikes in a 3-2 count. She ran down to first base thinking it was a walk and the Lady Jackets appealed to no avail. But, a bloop single and a fielder’s choice put two on with two outs to try and rally before Lopez came back to strike out Belen Gomez, who was called out on another checked swing.

Oxley returned to the circle, finished her afternoon with her 18th strikeout, and the Lady Jackets had to put the rally caps on.

Eight-hole hitter Alyssa Hillman, who started the year as a JV player, got it started with a single.

“From playing JV in the beginning and proving my spot on varsity, it was a big thing. First time at state, being at state, it’s a big jump,” she said. “I don’t know, my heart was racing out there. I knew I had to get a hit.”

Then another freshman, Kynley Quartermaine, came up with the hit that saved Bartow’s season. A triple, nearly to the same spot that Gibson sent her’s to, that tied the game.

“I wasn’t even thinking, I just swung,” Quartermaine said. “I’m still shocked.”

Bartow got it back to the top of the order for Destiny Driskell, the lefty slapper that came into her final at-bat hitless.

Well, hitless until she dropped in a bloop single that sent Quartermaine scampering home and send the Lady Jackets dugout into a frenzy. They mobbed Quartermaine at home plate, then Driskell at first, while Doral Academy players watched, stunned at what had just happened.

“I was just praying, I was looking straight up the middle the whole time, just hoping that it would go straight up the middle, because I knew Kynley would get in, because that’s my girl. She killed it,” Driskell said.

Bartow will go for its tenth state championship and first since 2016 on Saturday, when the Lady Jackets take on Pace, which won 3-0 over Land O’Lakes in the first semifinal of the day. It’s a chance to add onto Bartow’s illustrious softball history, which they’ve already added to in the form of one of the most thrilling wins in recent Lady Jackets history.

“It’s amazing. To add 2023 on top of our scoreboard, that’s going to look pretty up there,” Driskell said. “I’m proud of our team. Every batter, every defensive player, they all counted. Everything mattered.”


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