Here we are, face to face with the challenges and promises of yet another year. The reminiscing of the year past isn’t quite over yet. We’ve seen the “Top Stories of 2012” everywhere we turned, but the temptation to turn this space into something quite similar was fleet in passing. Sure, we will draw from those accomplishments as the seasons of sport often don’t begin and end with the calendar year.
One of the fondest memories of local sports in 2012 has to be the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series coming to Bartow. The months of planning that went into the annual event brought the community together to truly show the world what Bartow, Florida, is all about. Win or lose on the field, the visitors from throughout the south left the area knowing that Bartow is committed to its youth sports by having nothing but the best available. The series will be played elsewhere this year (Laurel, Mississippi), but the momentum from the experience remains strong.
Local players will be getting into action soon. Bartow Dixie Baseball registration starts today from 9 a.m.-noon. Additional registration will be held Tuesday, Jan. 8 (6-8 p.m.), Thursday, Jan. 10 (6-8 p.m.) and Saturday, Jan. 12 (9 a.m.-noon). Registration takes place at the Bartow Civic Center. Registration fee for players from 4-12 years old is $50 with 13-15-year-olds paying $60.
Further information is available at the website, www.bartowbaseball.org. Tryouts will be held on Jan. 19 with the draft to follow a few weeks later. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Feb. 22 with the Pittas Tournament for Majors and minors to be held Feb. 23-28.
The 2012 season will be one to remember for the Bartow Middle School athletes who got a chance to represent their school on the basketball and volleyball courts in 2012. Coach Tripp Wallace informed us that the Bartow Middle School Junior Varsity boys basketball team went undefeated. They maintained a perfect 6-0 record, even though they were trailing at the start of the fourth quarter in four of the games.
“Their toughness got them through and they are Western Division champions in the county,” Wallace said.
With the arrival of the third nine weeks, the sports emphasis at the county’s middle schools will be shifting to boys and girls soccer. Schools participating in the athletic program for the final nine weeks will be fielding teams in track, golf and tennis.
At Carver Rec Center today, the Bartow Junior Jackets Youth Basketball League will begin play. Boys and girls aged 5-12 (kindergarten through fifth grade) signed up last month and now will get their chance to compete. The six-week season will end on Feb. 9.
The month of January will be a busy time for the Bartow High School athletic teams as they make their final runs before district and further tournament play. The first team to go into districts will be the girls soccer squad. Coach Ben Braaten’s team has finished district play and has one game, a home match against Lake Wales on Jan. 10 before entering the district. Bartow has an 11-1-2 record in the district and will be the second seed behind undefeated George Jenkins. District tournament play will be held at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland with quarterfinals beginning on Jan. 14.
Coach Matt Cooper’s BHS boys squad is back in action Tuesday with a home match against George Jenkins. On Jan. 9, the Bartow squad will play its final home game with a bout against Mulberry, which is a varsity only contest that starts at 7 p.m. The team has two road games against Lake Gibson and Lake Wales before starting district play on Jan. 21.
The Bartow High School wrestling squad had a very successful run in the Polk County Duals before the Christmas holiday, coming up with a 6-2 record in the matches. The team travels to Zephyrhills today and the JV squad will participate in the Kathleen JV Tournament on Jan. 12. These events set the stage for the final home match of the year on Jan. 17 with Mulberry providing the opponent on Senior Night. Bartow travels to Sebring on Jan. 19, seeking to once again beat the Blue Streaks, who fell 37-31 in Bartow last month. The final tuneup for districts will be the annual Brian Bain Tournament at Lakeland High School on Jan. 26. This year’s district tournament will be held at Lake Gibson, starting on Jan. 28.
The Bartow High School girls basketball team will start their district play on Jan. 29, but there will be a lot of play between now and then. The team defeated Tampa Freedom 49-47 to win the Emerald Division in the Queen of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers last weekend. Next up is the Gainesville Shootout. The girls are back home on Monday (Jan. 7) to meet up with Lakeland before hitting the road to Lake Region (Jan. 10) and Leesburg (Jan. 11). Ridge (Jan. 14) and Dr. Phillips (Jan. 18) come calling to close out the home games. Bartow goes to the University High Shootout in Orlando and close out play at Kathleen on Jan. 22. The district play will be held at the always tough Haines City High gym. The Hornets have dealt the Lady Jackets their only district loss to date.
Boys basketball will not be moving into district play until Feb. 5. In the meantime, Coach Terrence McGriff’s squad put together an impressive 2012 with just a single loss before heading to tournament play in Atlanta. January will see six home games. Lake Wales visited last night and Lake Region is coming to the Hive Friday (Jan. 11). The Jackets will have the home court for their last four games, coming in a six day span from Jan. 22-28. Lakeland, Ridge, Winter Haven and Mulberry will be the foes with the Mulberry game (Jan. 28) serving as senior night. Of course, the home court action doesn’t end with that game as the annual Mosaic Shootout presented by Under Armour and BrightHouse Sports Network will take place in Bartow Feb. 1-2.