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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
PLANT CITY - Colena Lazar thought back to the summer, and for a brief moment, her face showed the pain of betrayal.
Pasco's sophomore pitcher remembered how word had quickly spread that the Pirates were about to lose arguably their top player, a hotshot pitcher who decided she would rather try her luck at making it to the softball state finals with a different high school in Tampa.
Lazar didn't want to believe it.
But it was true.
In recalling the story, Lazar said, honestly, it made her mad. And that's how this season began.
She then shrugged, jostled the bag of ice in her left hand and looked around. She was here, in Plant City Stadium, a cast on her right thumb, a silver medal around her neck and a smile finally peaking through, making her red tear-soaked cheeks shine.
The Pirates dropped a softball game Thursday night, falling 7-0 to Lake Wales in the Class 4A state championship, when their sure hands turned to stone and their on-target arms misfired.
They lost, but weren't beaten, coach Shamalene Broner said. "We beat ourselves."
As far as Broner was concerned, those medals they handed out?
And the tears her team shed?
Remember them, girls.
And that is how it all ended.
But in between, it was a ride that will be hard to forget. Not now, not for sophomore Lucy Schneider who will stay mad that she tried so hard to hit a home run that she hit nothing.
Not now for junior shortstop Brianne Farmer, who played with a sore right arm that finally failed her.
Not now for Broner, who has only known one thing her entire softball life, whether as the best high school player in county history or a college All-American, and that is excellence.
Not now for Lazar, who said give me the ball the day she found that other girl was leaving. Give me the ball and I will show her, and I will pitch the team she's leaving all the way to the state championship if I have to, even with a cast on my hand.
No, now it will be of a little solace, all that good stuff in between. But soon.
Maybe even this morning, when they realize that, holy cow, Schneider hit a home run in the ninth inning off a girl who had struck out 21 of 21 batters a week before, and Farmer's arm held up all year, and Kalee Burchfield led the whole county in hitting and Lazar had more than 200 strikeouts and Megan Newsome threw that girl out at home in extra innings to save the season.
Yeah, probably right about then, it will dawn on them that they had quite the ride, and this is only the beginning.
"We made a statement, " Schneider said. "We didn't come out on top, but I think we will be back. And that's a great feeling."
While her girls cried behind her, Broner steeled herself against a barrage of questions and made it known the Pirates plan to play on this field again.
The players went to their families. Hugged their boyfriends. Were told to keep their heads up and hey, by the way, girls, thanks for the ride.