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Courageous Barjaktarovich helps lead Richmond

EAST LANSING >> No ground ball is routine.

Just ask anyone who has ever hunkered down in front of a ball careening their way on grass or dirt or really any surface that can cover an infield.

A loitering pebble. A clod of dirt. A divot in the turf.

Boom! Bam! Boop!

Holy ouch, Batman.

Or make that Carley.

Carley Barjaktarovich refused to budge against a sharply hit ground ball hit that took one of the worst hops since the Easter Bunny hit the bar before passing out decorated eggs.

It was off the bat quickly, the ball jumped up and slammed into Barjaktarovich’s face.

“I started charging the ball a little bit. You don’t want to be back on your heels. After it hit the dirt for the last time, it came up so fast I did not have time to react. I did not move my head or anything. It caught me by surprise. It just missed my cheekbone and my nose, so it actually hit me in a good place.”

As she spoke after Saturday’s disappointing 8-4 nine-inning loss to Ida in the Division 2 state championship game played at Michigan State, the area around her left eye was visibly swollen and was already turning black and blue.

She had been holding a bag of ice to the area. She held onto the ice and was going to re-apply it soon enough.

Boxers on the losing end against Ali or Tyson have looked better.

“As long as I did not have any of the symptoms that the athletic trainer was talking about, I was staying in the game,” said Barjaktarovich. “Blurred vision, pain around my cheekbone, things like that.

“I love this team and I just wanted to be with them until the last out. I did not want to give that up. I wanted to share the experience with them. I am very competitive. I think I have always been like that,” she continued.

Still, after she got hit in the face, she stayed down for 10 minutes or so.

But she got up. She never left the game. If that doesn’t show toughness, then John Cena is a line dancer at Radio City Music Hall and Connor MacGregor has never struck anyone in anger.

Coach Howard Stuart appreciates her toughness.

“She is a tough kid. She wants to win. She is totally competitive. She is a vocal leader. She took one in the face and that really stunned her,” Stuart said. “Still, she played a great game. She certainly was not the reason we were in most of our games.

“She is a rah rah person. She is one of our smartest players and one of our fastest, too. She is probably our toughest, also,” said her coach.

It was a tough, tough loss to take not just for Stuart and Barjaktarovich, but the entire coaching staff and whole team.

Things appeared very comfortable for Richmond, the defending state champions. The Blue Devils scored twice in the third inning and again in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-0 lead into the seventh. However, Ida came back to knot the score at 3-3 and send it into extra innings.

Each team scored a run in the eighth, and then Ida put up four unanswered runs in the ninth.

“It’s very disappointing. Especially to have it so close. But we have to keep our heads up. We had a great, great season. It is a little sad. Now we know how it feels both ways. We have to shake it off. We have next year and now we have that revenge to motivate us. We are always confident. We are not afraid of anything,” said Barjaktarovich.

She certainly exemplifies that.

A screaming ground ball to the mug. She goes down, assesses things, and gets right back up. She had three hits on Saturday. She had three put-outs and three assists.

She left MSU with her head up, her pride intact, and an impressive black eye.

Last Updated: 6/17/2017 6:43:18 PM EST