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Cotey: Read between pitching lines to explain snub of Pasco's Lazar

Pirates pitcher Colena Lazar’s numbers are tough to top: 17 wins with 250 strikeouts. She made the Sunshine Athletic Conference’s third team.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Pirates pitcher Colena Lazar’s numbers are tough to top: 17 wins with 250 strikeouts. She made the Sunshine Athletic Conference’s third team.

It jumps out at you.

Smacks you in the face.

Leaves your mouth hanging open.

At least once a year, the Sunshine Athletic Conference teams picked by coaches do that to you.

Sometimes, it makes you angry. Other times, you can only laugh.

This time, it's a little of both.

Pasco senior softball player Colena Lazar — who quite frankly is the leader in the clubhouse to be our Player of the Year — is on the third team.

That is mind-boggling, based upon her stats.

She won 17 games, struck out 250 hitters, and batted .489 with 11 doubles and seven homers.

You can't get a spot on the first team for that?

Really?

But here's how it happened.

Four players were put up for Player of the Year: Land O'Lakes' Michelle Bradley, Mitchell's Olivia Kline, Sunlake's Samantha Dittman and Lazar.

Bradley won easily. Kline got the second-most votes. Both are pitchers.

So Bradley takes the first-team, and only, pitching spot.

Kline takes the second-team spot.

Lazar lands on third team.

There's a lot wrong with that.

But namely, this: it's time to add a slot for an additional pitcher or two, don't ya think?

It's unlike any other position in high school sports. It's the most important position in softball.

Without one, without a true ace, you can't win.

And next time, you don't have to leave a 17-game winner with 250 strikeouts — numbers that dwarf any other pitcher in the county — off the first and second teams.

Not that the vote is a surprise.

At the beginning of the season, every coach I talked to said Bradley was the best player in Pasco county. That wasn't going to change no matter how much better Lazar's stats were.

She could have hit .500 and struck out 300 and won 20 games, she was still never going to be Player of the Year.

They liked Bradley then.

They like her even more now.

River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said if she had played catcher, she would have been the best catcher in the county. If she had played shortstop, she would have been the best shortstop. If she had played outfield … well, you get the point.

That being the case, then surely the coaches could have included Lazar on the first team as a designated hitter, right?

A .489 average, seven homers, 40 RBIs?

No?

Because stats are only part of the story, and don't think for a minute these votes aren't emotional, even personal sometimes.

Bradley and Kline were humble, didn't taunt, didn't shake their heads and roll their eyes at umpires and question balls and strikes with what was sometimes an annoying frequency.

That goes a long way with coaches when it comes to choosing all-star teams.

And yes, it even matters to us, though we are less inclined to punish players for it unless it's egregious.

Lazar was never going to win over a bloc of coaches that found her, um, animated fist-pumping style offensive. I'm confident she was never even really considered.

Coaches tell me they want to reward all-around players. Good ambassadors for the game. Those who best combine their talent with sportsmanship.

This vote did that.

And for the record, this is not an argument against Bradley as Player of the Year; rather one that says any all-conference team has to have the most dominant pitcher who also happens to be one of the best power hitters on it.

You can make an incredibly strong case for Bradley based upon her numbers.

She beat Mitchell and River Ridge in crucial conference games, and Lazar didn't. Her only losses were to 6A powerhouse Chamberlain and Zephyr­hills, which scored three unearned runs to beat her.

She batted .472, and heck, even went 2-for-3 off Lazar when the Gators and Pirates met.

She deserves Player of the Year honors.

She deserves to be on the first team.

But so does Lazar.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com.

Cotey: Read between pitching lines to explain snub of Pasco's Lazar 05/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 6:08pm]
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