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BV ace Hartman ranks as one of county's best John Philip Wyllie | Fri, May 28 2010 12:42 PM

She is only a sophomore, but that hasn’t stopped Bonita Vista’s Jennifer Hartman from working her way to the top of the heap as one of the San Diego Section’s best softball pitchers.

Riding Hartman’s lethal arm, the Barons ran the table in the Mesa League with a perfect 10-0 record and went on to vanquish Rancho Buena Vista and Poway in the opening two games of the Division I playoffs. While she is not overpoweringly fast, Hartman can hit her spots and she is cool as a cucumber under pressure.

“Jen is a hell of a pitcher and she is growing up right in front of our eyes,” said elated BV coach John Carlson following the Barons thrilling 5-4 CIF opening win against Rancho Buena Vista. “She has a good fast ball, but I wouldn’t call it overpowering. What she has is five pitches with a lot of movement that she can place where we want them. Not to take anything away from Hilltop’s (Jordan) Rhudy and (Alysha) Isaacson, but I think Jen proved that she was the top pitcher in the league this season. We were 10-0 in league and now we are 21-5 overall. She threw all but two or three of them.”

Hartman is no overnight success. She began at an early age, made pitching her passion and has steadily improved each year.

“I began playing softball at the age of five or six,” she said. “I also play volleyball, but volleyball is just a side thing. This is my main sport and I have been going at it forever.”

For Hartman, pitching is as much mental as it is physical.

“Attitude on the mound is very important,” she said. “You have to be focused all the time and go after every batter as if she is the most important hitter.”

Despite her impressive 19-5 record, Hartman is not satisfied. She is relentless in her pursuit of excellence.

“Every day there is something new to find and something that you can change (and improve),” she said. “There are always pitches that you can work on every day. I like to pick my corners. Getting them exact is where my strength lies. When you get to a high level of softball a girl can hit any speed as long as she adjusts. Spin on the ball and movement is what is going to get them out.”

It is one thing to be able to pitch precisely in practice, but doing it under game conditions when the game hangs in the balance is a much bigger challenge. That takes a lot of focus.

“I love the pressure,” she said. “That is why I became a pitcher. On every pitch, I start with the ball, so I have the opportunity to make a difference. When the pressure gets intense, that is when I throw my hardest.”

Like most of her teammates, Hartman has played her club softball under Carlson’s watchful eye with Bonita Valley. The nearly year round commitment has paid dividends both on and off the diamond.

 “I have played with coach Carlson and most of these girls since I was eight years old,” Hartman said. “I love all of them and it will be nice to return to travel ball (following this season). We all jive well as a team, so that makes it great.”

CIF notepad

Bonita Vista was among just five Metro Conference teams admitted to this year’s playoff field, joining Hilltop (Division I), Mar Vista (Division II), Montgomery (Division III) and Mater Dei Catholic (Division IV).

The fifth-seeded Barons overcame a 4-3 RBV lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to capture the teams’ single-elimination play-in game on Saturday. Andrea Lara, Ruby Elliot and Anissa Pinedo each stroked doubles in the game while Pinedo drove in two runs. Celina Cosio and Elliot each slammed solo home runs in the sixth inning for the game-tying and game-winning runs. Winning pitcher Jennifer Hartman allowed six hits while striking out six. The 12th-seeded Longhorns finished the season 12-16.

In Monday’s opener of the eight-team double-elimination tournament, Bonita Vista erased a 1-0 lead with two runs in the sixth inning to claim a clutch 2-1 victory over the fourth-seeded Titans (17-12). Jaycee Carlson and Pinedo each scored runs for the Barons while Cosio was given credit for one RBI. Hartman struck out nine batters and allowed six hits to pick up the win.

In eighth-seeded Hilltop’s 6-0 play-in victory against ninth-seeded San Pasqual (16-12-1) on Saturday, Alysha Isaacson hurled a no-hitter while striking out nine batters. Fiana Finau hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning for the Lancers (22-7), who also received two RBI from Monica Armas.

South Bay League champion Mar Vista (12-0, 21-8) received a rude awakening in Saturday’s 5-0 play-in loss to sixth-seeded Valhalla (20-9-1) as Norsemen pitcher Torrey Rock no-hit the 11th-seeded Mariners, striking out 14 batters.

El Capitan’s Delanie Gourley fired a no-hitter against Montgomery in another play-in game on Saturday. The 11th-seeded Aztecs, runner-up in the South Bay League, finished the season 12-10 after dropping the 14-0 decision to the sixth-seeded Vaqueros (20-11).

Third-seeded Mater Dei (20-9) carried the torch for the South Bay with victories in its first two games: 9-1 over 14th-seeded Escondido Charter (13-14) behind two triples by Carina Erb and 8-3 over sixth-seeded Madison (23-6) as  Kim Tamayo went three-for-three with a double, triple and four RBI.

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