The first year of the Cuyahoga County Softball Coaches Association is coming to an end. And for the association’s president, Cassie Gaye, it couldn’t have gone any better.

In January, Gaye, North Olmsted’s head softball coach, joined forces with Olmsted Falls’ head coach Katarina Muzingo (vice president) and St. Joseph Academy’s head coach Dale Dawson (treasurer) to form the CCSCA. Following in the footsteps of the Lorain County Softball Coaches Association, the CCSCA is an attempt to combat what Gaye called a “dead zone” in the county for softball and increase recognition for the teams in players in the county.

“We are about the kids,” Gaye said. “We are about this sport and all of us coaches are working together to grow the sport in the area and give all the girls in the Cleveland area a better opportunity to grow and play and get recognized for their achievements.”

Of the 26 total schools in the association, six schools from the West Life coverage area are included in the CCSCA: Bay, Fairview, Magnificat, North Olmsted, Rocky River and Westlake.

Gaye said that, though the CCSCA did not initially intend to start giving out player and pitcher of the week awards, after seeing that the Southwestern Conference gave our similar awards, they decided to adopt that starting in the second week of the season. Weeks two, three, four and five, saw eight different players with no repeats until week six.

“I organized (player and pitcher of the week) probably in a two-hour time span,” Gaye said. “I got it out and sent them dates. The coaches were awesome, they emailed me back with their nominations real quick. We’ve kind of shifted how we vote each week. We tweak it here and there because nothing’s perfect right away.

“There are coaches that genuinely see what this association is trying to do,” Gaye added. “Our goal is to promote softball in the area, not just a powerhouse. When we go about nominating our players and voting, I’m starting to notice that coaches are looking to see what other schools are doing. They’re not voting for the same kid every week.”

Leading the way was Maya Johnson of St. Joseph Academy and Brecksville-Broadview Heights’ Kelsey Jakosh, each named pitcher of the week twice. The Jaguars and Bees each also had one player of the week award. Olmsted Falls and Holy Name also had winners in each category throughout the season.

The culmination of recognition came this month with the inaugural All-County first, second and third teams. The pitcher and player of the year award will be announced at the upcoming all-star game against players from the LCSCA on June 11 at LaGrange Community Park, 422 W. Main Street, LaGrange. The first and second teams will play in the game, with the third team serving as reserves.

Making the first team was St. Joseph’s Johnson, Berea-Midpark catcher Bridie Bricker, North Olmsted first baseman Jessie Varnis, Holy Name second baseman Annessa Whitlow, Olmsted Falls third baseman Ashley Zgodzinski, Strongsville shortstop Kirsten Eppele, Brecksville-Broadview Heights outfielder Chaci Mack, Rocky River outfielder Marissa Smiley and St. Joseph outfielder Andrea Horrocks.

Also representing West Life’s teams are Fairview second baseman Elizabeth Williams, shortstop Lauryn Leslie and outfielder Angelina Lopez and North Olmsted outfielder Alex Balson, all making the second team. Westlake second baseman Charlotte Button and Magnificat outfielder Sami Brenner made the third team.

St. Joseph Academy’s coaching staff was also named staff of the year.

Even after just one season, Gaye is excited and optimistic for the future of the CCSCA and hopes to see it grow past the 26 teams it currently has.

“The more the merrier, completely,” she said. “If we could get every school – there’re some other schools that I talked to that didn’t get into our association this year. We want to encourage everyone in this county to get involved because … you win with people. The more people you have, the more opportunities for all these kids.”

Contact this reporter at jkopanski@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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