McKayla Bartley has thought about playing softball in college since she was 10 years old. And now, thanks to a couple of coaches and the internet, that dream is about to become reality for the Pahrump Valley High School senior.
Pahrump Valley softball coach Cassondra Lauver recently announced Bartley made a verbal commitment to accept a scholarship to play softball at Bryant &Stratton College in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“Bryant and Stratton College is a private, two-year college in Virginia Beach,” Bartley explained. “They reached me through an app where coaches and students connect with each other to find matches.”
That app would be Field Level, which bills itself as “Recruiting Done Right,” a place “where coaches help their athletes find the best opportunities to play in college.”
“Mrs. Lauver promoted me to the team on Field Level, and I reached out to coach (Genevieve) Weaver, and she was super-excited to talk to me,” Bartley said. “She talked to my travel ball coach, Rodney Detommaso, and he scheduled a practice with Mrs. Lauver at Faith Lutheran, which is my travel ball team’s home field. She said she wanted to leave there with one commitment, and it was me.”
“She was offered money based on her physical attributes,” Lauver said. “The coach had never seen McKayla play before, and after one workout she was offered a generous scholarship.”
If Weaver was impressed by Bartley, Bartley was impressed by Weaver.
“My coach, she is so cool,” Bartley said. “She is the sweetest person I have met in a while. Her philosophy around coaching softball is very family-oriented. It’s like at the high school. She does a lot of team bonding.”
Detommaso has played a major role in Bartley’s development, coaching her on two Las Vegas-based teams, including Impact Gold Nevada 18U, her current team.
“I was with Rodney since I was 14 with Mojo, took a break to play with a Pahrump travel ball team, and then I came back,” Bartley said.
“We are so proud of McKayla and the continuous hard work she’s put into this sport,” Detommaso said. “She has a true love for the game. And the game has loved her back because of it.”
And Bartley knows playing for Impact Gold gets you noticed.
“Impact Gold is a national organization for softball players who are truly serious about the sport,” she said. “They are based in Texas, and my coach is from Texas. It’s a great organization full of great people. A lot of softball players from Impact Gold go Division I or Division II, so that’s cool.”
But, like other high-caliber athletes from Pahrump, she took some heat for deciding to go for a higher level of competition in Las Vegas.
“When I went to Mojo my first year with Rodney, I felt pretty bad about it because I felt I was ditching my teammates in Pahrump,” she recalled. “But being on a team in Vegas helped me become more known among college coaches. But I went back to Pahrump and then back to Impact Gold.”
“She is one of the entire valley’s best catchers,” Detommaso said. “She works on her drop-blocks and throw-downs and has a successful record with gunning down runners attempting to steal a base. And blocking nasty pitches comes second nature to her. As a coach, I can see she enjoys the challenges that present themselves to her.”
Bartley played other sports before settling on softball. She played volleyball at Rosemary Clarke Middle School, one year of golf for the high school team, and she bowled in a kids’ league. But she also has shown versatility in softball; while she is a catcher for her high school team, she has played other positions with Impact Gold, including second base and third base.
“She has tremendous character and brings a positive attitude with her to the field every time,” Detommaso said. “I’ve seen several players feeling down on themselves for not making a tough play or not driving in a run. McKayla is always there giving them a positive word to help bring them back on track. She is a focused leader with her voice and actions when she plays catcher, second or third base.”
During her junior year, Bartley hit .416 in 77 at-bats, including 4 doubles, 2 triples, a home run and 18 RBIs. She also drew 16 walks against just 5 strikeouts as the Trojans won their first Class 3A state championship since 2005, and she stressed she enjoys playing with her high school teammates as much as with her Impact Gold teammates.
“I think that playing for Rodney I have learned to forgive myself more,. … When I’m playing fall ball, for instance, I don’t feel the pressure. Pressure is not a bad thing, but I’ve learned to forgive myself for mistakes. The girls are much more intense in that environment because we all want to go to college for it, and I want to be the best softball player I can be, not the best three-sport athlete.”
Bartley plans to study nutrition and become a dietitian, and she likes the fact the BSC campus is a small one.
“I don’t want to go all the way across the country and be at a huge school and know nobody,” she said. “It’s 15 minutes away from the beach and 45 minutes away from the mountains. The school’s pretty cool.”
Bartley will see for herself during a scheduled campus visit in December, then plans to make the move in June or July. The scholarship covers 70 percent of the tuition at Bryant &Stratton, which is listed at $17,068. She will live in a four-person apartment and is looking for other scholarships and grants to cover the rest of her costs.
But while that work goes on, Bartley is thrilled to have the main task of choosing a college behind her, a process that she said took only two to three months.
“I feel so much weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “Ever since I was 10, I’ve been thinking about this. I need to sign with a good school, whose team I could feel comfortable with, and it fell into place so perfectly. It could not have gone better.”
“The exciting part for this coach is that once she gets to know McKayla as a player and person, she’ll realize what a great work ethic, dedication and discipline McKayla has,” Lauver said. “Those qualities are a huge factor in successful programs. Truly we are pumped up for McKayla and can’t wait to see where this journey takes her.”