Tougher schedule benefits 'Canes
SPRING HILL - The Hurricanes are brewing. In the past season and half, Bishop McLaughlin's softball team has become the first Bishop girls team to win a district championship and has not lost a district game, which includes a 2010 season that found last year's 15-10 squad in the regional semifinals. "I came to the parent/player meeting last year and I said I think we can win states and everyone just kind of chuckled and looked at each other," said coach John Yaratch, a retired Tampa Police Department cop in his third season at the helm. "When we won the district tournament, they all kind of became believers. "They believe in themselves now and know what they can do."The seniorless Hurricanes, with a 9-7 record and a 4-0 spotless district record this season, not only have faith in Yaratch, but also themselves. "I think if we continue on the streak we've got going, I think we've got states," junior catcher Amy Szymanowski said. "The female sports aren't represented (at Bishop) like they should be, so that drive, along with what coach has instilled in us, has put us confident in that goal." Given the lack of depth in the four-team Class 2A-District 10, Bishop's chances of going deep in the state tournament are well founded. First off, the Hurricanes return all but one player from last season, and, secondly, their record includes losses to Chicago Mother McAuley, Green Cove Springs Clay, Tampa Catholic, Academy of the Holy Names and Zephyrhills. Those teams are in higher classifications. "I just believe you have to set goals," Yaratch said. "I wanted that to be our goal, but the first goal was winning a district championship, but I think (a state championship is) realistic for our classification. "When you look at our schedule, we're playing 5A, 4A and 3A schools, and you can look around and see 15-0, 16-0, and then we'll see what happens (to them) at the end of the year. I believe our schedule will prepare us for the postseason. It's the whole reason I made our schedule the way I did." When Bishop played Mother McAuley and Clay, they lost by a combined scored of 33-0 to a team that has given up only 14 runs and another in Class 4A, respectively. "I don't think coach John set up our schedule so people would go on MaxPreps and see an undefeated team," Szymanowski said. "He set it up for people to see that we're playing teams that are ranked or better. Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat it - we got our butts handed to us. They weren't even close ... and he made our schedule that way, not to make us feel bad or not have confidence in our team, but to bring us to (their) level and see all these teams and that we don't have anything on them. "That was a great way to motivate us." The success has also paid dividends for the program. Before Yaratch took over, the team had a different coach each season, as players lacked consistent game plans and goals. Now, as the team has real direction, the Hurricanes are picking up speed, heading down a successful storm path. "Being in a private school of this size is a challenge because you don't have 40 girls that come out for softball," Yaratch said. "You have to learn to deal with 17 different personalities. It's a challenge, sometimes, to find talent and experience, but it's a balance I've felt I found, even if it is challenging. "When we play good softball, we're a very good team," Yaratch added. "I'll match us up with anyone defensively, as long as we keep away from the mental errors, but our hitting is coming around, which is not a bad time of the year for that to happen."
Correspondent Mike Camunas covers high school softball in Pasco County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.