ATWATER -- Alex Barenchi felt it was time to make a decision.
The Atwater senior wanted softball to be apart of her future. So Barenchi did everything she could to make that happen.
She put away her swimsuit as she gave up water polo.
She worked with her hitting coach, Glenn Nobbe, for hours and hours.
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What free time she did have was spent in the weight room or running.
A softball scholarship to Sonoma State.
The Atwater star then proved she was worthy of the scholarship by hitting .417 with four homers and 24 RBIs on her way to being named the Central California Conference MVP.
For her efforts, Barenchi is the Sun-Star Softball Player of the Year.
"I devoted all my time to softball," Barenchi said. "It's what I wanted to do with my life.
"I worked like crazy every day and every weekend and it paid off.
"I got noticed and I get to go to a school I love."
Anybody who watched Atwater play the past couple years would tell you Barenchi was the heart and soul of the team.
"Early on during her sophomore year, she came out of her shell," Atwater coach Joe Leonardo said. "She took over the team and I gave her the reins.
"It's been great. She's going to be hard to replace."
Barenchi hasn't shied away from being a leader, either.
She inspired teammates in the dugout. She kept everyone focused during games.
Barenchi definitely earned the respect of her teammates.
"Even if I wasn't a four-year player, I would want to assume the roll as a leader," Barenchi said.
"I want to lead these girls. I want them to go out and play as hard and want to win as much as I do.
"It's not like I'm some boss lady out there. They just realize I like to take charge."
There's no question Barenchi's offensive numbers are impressive.
She reached base close to 50 percent of the time and finished with a .750 slugging percentage.
However, her defensive play may be the main reason she earned a scholarship.
Barenchi single-handedly shut down running games with her cannon arm and quick release.
"I think one girl stole on her this year," Leonardo said. "The ball never went to the backstop.
"We've played a lot of teams this year and she's one of the best I've seen."
Her play behind the dish wasn't an accident. She takes pride when she straps on the gear.
She often dragged a friend to a softball diamond to work on blocking balls in the dirt and throwing balls down to second.
"I love catching," Barenchi said. "I love the defensive part. Don't get me wrong -- I love hitting -- but I love being behind the plate.
"I love calling the shots. Being a catcher is what I want to be known for."
As far as she's concerned, Barenchi's four years have gone by too fast.
"Now that it's over, it's bittersweet," she said. "On one side, I can't wait to get to Sonoma State. It's like starting a new chapter in my life.
"On the other side, I'm going to miss all my friends. I've become so close to those girls."
No doubt Barenchi's work ethic and desire will lead to new friends and great memories at Sonoma.
However, with everything that happened this year, she'll have a hard time forgetting her senior year at Atwater.
"It's been the best year ever," she said. "I got my scholarship. I graduated. I was the MVP of the league.
"It's been a pretty good year."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALL-STAR FOOTBALL: The 16th annual Small-Schools All-Star Football Game is today at Linden. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.