The Bloomingdale Bulls learned early this season that defending a state title wouldn't be easy.

Maybe that's exactly what they needed to make another run at a championship.

"I think it helps that we've had rough patches because we've had to work them out as a team and get through them as a team," junior first baseman Tyler Farrell said.

The Bulls entered their district tournament opener with a 16-7 record, which is certainly good, but not as good as last year's 27-3 campaign.

Bloomingdale started the season 10-1, but faced some adversity during a ten-game stretch during which the Bulls lost six times.

"We don't measure the season by the results in the middle," head coach Mark Braddy said.  "You measure it by the end, and you measure it by what they accomplished as the season goes along."

Braddy is Bloomingdale's new head coach, replacing reigning Class 8A state coach of the year Mandy Schuerman, who left to take the head coaching job at State College of Florida.

Braddy, who was once the head coach at Tampa Catholic, joined Schuerman's staff during last season's magical run to a state title.

"I felt like I hit the coaching lottery coming over here," Braddy said.

The Bulls finished behind Plant and tied with Newsome in the Class 8A District 7 standings in one of the toughest districts in the state.

Bloomingdale will likely ride a pair of seniors if the Bulls have what it takes to make another deep run in the playoffs.

Lace Smith is the pitching star, with a 16-5 record and 1.54 ERA, while Lizzy Jackson is the table setter offensively with a .516 batting average, 24 runs, and 32 stolen bases.

"I'd like more than anything to get that chance again, and I know for a fact we can do it," Jackson said.

"It's going to be a tough ride, but I think we're here to handle it," Smith said.