High school sports rivalries don’t always last forever.
Just ask Chandler-Gilbert Community College sophomores Hannah Bapst and Sienna Martinez.
Having played club softball together in eighth grade, the rivalry between the two girls wasn’t born until Bapst attended Desert Vista and Martinez attended Mountain Pointe. Throughout high school they lost touch, except when they were on opposite sides of the softball field during the Desert Vista-Mountain Pointe rivalry games.
They were forced to put those feelings aside when they became teammates again on Chandler-Gilbert’s softball team a year ago.
“We’re too nice to have a rivalry,” Bapst said. “We’ve been friends all season, last year and this year, too. She’s definitely a friend and not an enemy.”
Martinez feels the same way.
“Every now and then we’ll just say little jokes like, ‘Oh, well you’re from DV’ and things like that,” Martinez said. “We’ve been friends for so long that it really doesn’t even get to us anymore. We kind of just let it go.”
Chandler-Gilbert coach Ralph Baldenegro admitted the two players have come together as teammates better than expected, which shows a lot about each of their character.
“When they first come as freshmen, they’re still very tied to their high school,” Baldenegro said. “There was some jabbing going on, but this year I don’t think I’ve heard too much of it because we’ve got a tough enough job competing in our conference against the other schools that they’re now one unit.”
As two of the Coyotes’ four sophomores, Bapst in the outfield and Martinez at first base, they are doing their best to keep their team in the hunt for the playoffs.
In Region I of NJCAA’s Division II, the Coyotes currently own a 16-30 record through their double-header victories against University of Wyoming Club on April 12.
While Bapst’s competitive spirit makes losing difficult, she has learned to take every loss in stride.
“You can always do everything better,” Bapst said. “You don’t want to make any errors and you want to hit the ball every time to win. There’s always room for improvement when you look back on it.”
The area in which she has grown the most while at Chandler-Gilbert is her ability to use constructive criticism to better her game. While her .273 batting average has improved from .261 last season, Baldenegro has seen Bapst’s defense as her most pleasing development.
“Last year, she was a little reluctant to engage in fly balls and this year she’s been very, very solid on the balls she gets to,” Baldenegro said. “I think last year she was lacking confidence, maybe not sure of herself and didn’t make some of the routine plays that she’s making this year.”
For Martinez, greater confidence at the plate is a difference she has noticed this season and one that shows up in the box scores. After batting .304 last season, her batting average sits at .375 through 32 games played at first base.
“I think I became more confident with myself,” Martinez said. “I know that was a huge thing from last year. I’ve mentally just gotten a lot better (and) I’m stronger in the field, hitting-wise, physically and mentally.”
Baldenegro sees Martinez’s confidence as the reason she’s swinging the bat and driving in runs (18 RBIs this season) like he envisioned when recruiting her.
With their eligibility at Chandler-Gilbert ending this season, Baldenegro acknowledges their quiet leadership skills will play an important role as the season slows down.
“Neither one of them are big ‘Rah rah’ type kids,” Baldenegro said. “As far as how to behave, how to conduct themselves, how to get ready for games, without a doubt they’re leaders.”
As the next chapters in their lives prepare to unfold, Bapst and Martinez understand that playing softball long-term probably isn’t in the cards for either of them.
While Bapst anticipates finishing her softball career while studying business at Kansas Wesleyan University, Martinez will be transferring to Grand Canyon University to study sports medicine with every intention of having her last game played in a Chandler-Gilbert uniform.
“It took a lot of thinking and decision-making to try and come up with a decision, but I’m getting a little burnt out,” Martinez said. “I’ve been playing for so long and I really just want to focus on my academics now.”
While Bapst and Martinez will no longer be teammates after this season, at least they won’t have to worry about the pressures of a rivalry keeping them tied together.
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.