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Bauer finds niche on water

Alex Bauer looked to be going full-speed ahead into college softball.

She was a second-team All-Sunset League selection as a junior, one of Coach Tony Qualin’s best hitters and best pitchers. She was set up this spring to be the Sailors’ only senior.

There was just one problem, but it was a big one. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore.

At the start of her senior year at Newport Harbor High last September, Bauer said she felt burned out. She even visited a few colleges on recruiting trips, but she said she couldn’t see herself playing the sport for four more years.

Bauer made a tough decision. She told her travel-ball coach in late November that she was quitting softball. Then she spent December “going out of my mind,” as she put it.

“I was like, ‘What am I going to do with my time?’” Bauer said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to do.”

There was something new ahead off the starboard bow: rowing. And just a couple of months later, Bauer signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to row for Southern Methodist University.

Her mom, Penny, said she finds it funny. But she and Alex’s father, Tim, couldn’t be prouder of her daughter.

“When she was little we said to her, ‘When [softball] stops being fun we’re done,’” Penny Bauer said. “We weren’t in it for a scholarship. I was just said because I knew how much softball meant to her and how hard she had worked. But it became a job, and not a very fun job.”

The Bauers’ friend and neighbor, the longtime Orange Coast College crew coach Dave Grant, had always told them that Alex and her brother Blake would be good rowers because they’re tall and athletic. Alex stands 6-foot even. So one day, she went down to the OCC base to go out on a launch with the current OCC coach, Matthew Chapman.

Alex said she loved it. She joined Newport Aquatic Center in January and has been competing for the NAC girls’ novice team ever since. They have the Long Beach Invitational coming up this weekend, and state championships in Sacramento in three weeks is their biggest regatta.

“It’s very physically demanding,” NAC novice coach Eden Broggi said. “It really requires a high level of athletic ability, but Alex, she rose to that challenge for sure. A lot of that is personality, too. She was driven to work really hard at something that was new and difficult, and she found that challenge exciting. I think rowing tends to be that for athletes who get burned out elsewhere. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s a fun little niche.”

Bauer has found her niche. Penny put her daughter’s rowing profile up on a recruiting website and almost immediately colleges began contacting her, partially because Alex is a great all-around athlete. She will be joined at SMU by three other Newport Aquatic Center girls from Newport Beach. There are Newport Harbor High seniors Chantelle and Dominique Conley, as well as CdM senior Scarlett Fallon, who played for the Sea Kings’ girls’ soccer team. Newport seniors Serena Boccara (Cal) and Julia Sclafani (Columbia), as well as Sage Hill senior Katie Rosoff (Wisconsin), are some of the other locals who have signed to row crew in college.

Bauer has made plenty of new friends, and she continues to get better. Now, she couldn’t imagine herself anywhere but out on the water from 3 to 6 p.m. every afternoon.

“I didn’t know I could pick up a whole new sport and get signed in just three months,” Bauer said. “It’s weird to me. I still have emails from colleges about softball and I’m like, ‘Oh, I do crew now.’

“That’s my sport now.”