MORGANTOWN — It’s not always easy to hit a softball.
Any player who’s ever picked up a bat and stepped to the plate will tell you the same: Some days you have it, and some days you don’t.
When Butch Varner took the job leading the 2018 Clay-Battelle softball team, he knew there would be games when the bats just weren’t hot. Luckily, when junior pitcher Caitlyn Kassay was on the mound, the Cee-Bees didn’t have to worry about scoring much.
In 19 appearances on the mound, Kassay tossed 10 shutouts and four no-hitters, tallying an earned run average of 1.76. It was the type of consistency and dominance that gave C-B a bit more security on the offensive end.
“It was quite a relief to know, as a coach and as a team as a whole, that when Caitlyn was pitching, we likely only needed to score one or two runs to win a game,” Varner said.
In total, Kassay earned 14 wins on the mound while taking just three losses as she led her squad to a 20-6 record and an appearance in the regional final, where the Cee-Bees lost to eventual state runner-up Moorefield.
“Caitlyn did an excellent job for us this year with her ability in the pitching circle and the batter’s box,” Varner said.
Kassay also performed at the plate for C-B, earning a jaw-dropping batting average of .590 while recording 43 RBIs, 17 doubles, five home runs and three triples. For her outstanding efforts on the diamond for C-B, Kassay has been selected as the dominionpost.com All-Area Softball Player of the Year for the second straight year.
“This award means a lot to me personally to represent my school and community two years in a row,” she said.
According to Varner, Kassay came into her own as a leader on the Cee-Bees squad during the 2018 season, learning to encourage her teammates and trust in them on the field. He credits her leadership as a major factor in the team’s success.
“Coming into that role was hard and, quite honestly, scary. There’s a lot of team dynamics to balance — keeping everyone focused on one goal and helping everyone develop as a whole,” she said. “One of my main goals was to try and make the underclassmen more comfortable in situations they’ve never experienced on the field before.”
Kassay attributed her success to the ability to focus on the task at hand when on the mound, and not letting her emotions get the best of her.
“Playing in the moment is key,” she said. “As a pitcher, there is no point in dwelling on the last pitch — it’s over and you have to move on. The goal is to win, but it must be taken one pitch at a time. All it takes is one swing of the bat and it’s over.”
Kassay also discussed her off-season training as playing a critical role.
“My off-season was a key to my success this year as an athlete,” she said. “Many nights a week for months, I worked my trainers, my pitching and hitting coach, and my travel coach. Strength and conditioning was a critical part of improving my hitting, pitching, and endurance.”
Abbey Ammons, Sr., Clay-Battelle
Ammons helped anchor the Cee-Bees infield at shortstop and pitcher, tallying five wins and just one loss during her appearances on the mound. At the plate, she batted .459 while notching 19 RBIs, nine doubles, four triples and four home runs. She finished the season with an on-base percentage of .526.
Rylee Burnette, Soph., Clay-Battelle
Burnette was the bona fide leader on the 2018 C-B outfield, holding down center field for the team. She earned a batting average of .431 and an on-base percentage of .506, scoring 26 runs and tallying 17 RBIs for C-B.
Yasmine Colebank, Sr., University
Colebank anchored the Hawks’ regional final squad at the plate, batting .474 with a slugging percentage of .731. She earned an on-base percentage of .544 and drove home 26 RBIs, while earning a fielding percentage of .970.
Hayden Powroznik, Jr., University
Powroznik was the star pitcher during the Hawks’ 2018 campaign, finishing the season with a fielding percentage of .908. She also proved a force at the plate for UHS, batting .455 with a slugging percentage of .597, while driving home 13 RBIs.
Layne Assif, Jr., University
Assif led the infield from second base with a fielding percentage of .937, notching 24 RBIs for the Hawks while batting an even .400.
Ally Hawkins, Sr., Morgantown
Hawkins shared time with Brooke Pyles as the Mohigans’ top pitchers in 2018, going 3-4 in seven starts and 10 appearances on the mound. She threw 23 strikeouts and earned a fielding percentage of .918 between the mound and the infield. At the plate, she notched seven doubles, drove home 20 RBIs and batted .425.
Brianna McKenzie, Jr., Morgantown
McKenzie split time between catching and the infield for MHS, finishing her campaign with a fielding percentage of .938. At the plate, she proved one of the best for the Mohigans, tallying seven doubles and two home runs, and driving home 21 RBIs.
Tori Dewitt, Sr., Preston
Dewitt was the heart and soul of the Knights, a player coach Mike Adams described as a total team leader with a drive to be the best.
“She understands it takes a team to win, and she was always willing to take a player under her wing and help her along,” he said.