Cooper makes history as first winner of Truex Award

By Brad Morris

Having the ability to turn a negative into a positive eventually set the stage for Cara Cooper to have a senior season to remember.

After the COVID-19 pandemic cost the Circleville shortstop her freshman season, Cooper was looking forward to making her delayed debut with the red-and-black in the spring, but an ACL injury she suffered during volleyball season forced Cooper to sit the bench and miss her sophomore campaign.

“It was a difficult experience, because my friends were able to go out and play the game that I love, and I was forced to watch. I could practice a little bit, but it wasn’t the same,” Cooper said. “I talked to coaches Dave and Jada Truex a lot that season and they pointed out different things to me.

“Looking back on that season, it really helped me develop the mental side of my game, to have a better approach to preparing for a game and playing in the game. I grew a lot as a player, even though I wasn’t able to actually play.”

A solid debut season as a junior set the stage for Cooper to take the area by storm in her senior season. She batted an unheard of .660 and reached base nearly 73 percent of the time. Cooper amassed 14 doubles, 10 triples, four home runs, drove in 55 runs and scored 50 times, and also swiped 17 bases in earning Player of the Year honors in the Mid-State League Buckeye Division and Southeast District Division II. Cooper was also recognized as a first-team All-Ohio honoree.

Cooper added another accolade to her name and made history on Sunday night by becoming the inaugural winner of The Dave Truex Award, which will be presented annually to the most outstanding senior softball player in Pickaway County.

Circleville coach Dave Truex presents shortstop Cara Cooper with the award as the most outstanding senior softball player in Pickaway County.

“I was shocked about the award, because I didn’t know there was going to be one and I am very happy to be the first winner, especially since there are a lot of good softball players in the county,” Cooper said. “It also means a lot to me, because it’s named after Dave.

“We didn’t get along and we argued a lot when I first came up, but after I tore my ACL we became a lot closer and he’s been my biggest supporter since Day 1.”

Truex agreed with Cooper about the growth she had during her sophomore season.

“Cara is one of the most complete, one of the most well-prepared players that I’ve ever coached and it’s amazing what she has done in our program with only playing two years,” he said. “What stands out to me the most about Cara is how she turned a negative into a productive experience when she missed her sophomore season.

“She was usually by Jada or me on the bench and we would point out different things to her and talk a lot of softball. Cara’s always had the physical tools to succeed, but the growth she made mentally that season, soaking in everything we said and becoming strong mentally really set her up to have a very good junior season and then have what was honestly an unbelievable senior season. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Circleville’s Cara Cooper led the area with a .660 batting average.

With the goal of playing softball at the collegiate level, Cooper worked hard in the offseason to hone her craft to have a senior season to remember.

“I struggled hitting the outside pitch in my junior season, so I worked off a tee almost every day and hit five buckets of balls and then I also hit off (assistant coach) Hayden Ellis,” Cooper said.

Cooper started the season red hot with 17 hits in her first 20 at-bats and kept a steady pace of spraying the outfield with line drives all season long.

“I had a plan and I executed it pretty well,” Cooper said. “With hitting third, I am able to watch the first couple of batters and see what the pitcher is throwing and what is working well for the pitcher and not so well. Then, I step to the plate and look for the type of pitch I like to hit, which is usually a little higher pitch than what coach wants me to swing at.”

Truex noted that he had an unreasonable expectation for every time that Cooper stepped into the batter’s box.

“I expected Cara to get a hit every time. I know that’s totally unreasonable and if I told someone that, they would probably think I was crazy,” Truex said. “That’s a credit to Cara, because that’s how much I believe in her, her approach to the game, how hard she works and how well she plays.”

Circleville shortstop Cara Cooper prepares to catch a throw at second base.

The Tigers put together a 20-win season, finished second in the Mid-State League Buckeye Division and advanced to a district semifinal, where they fell 7-6 in a nine-inning heartbreaker to Sheridan.

Cooper reflected on some of the highlights of the season.

“We had a really bad loss against Chillicothe when we blew a 10-0 lead, but we came back the next day and beat Westfall, who has given us some trouble in the past. That got us back on the right track,” she said. “We had struggled against Logan Elm during my high school career, so when we went over there and beat them (14-5), that was a big highlight.

“We really hit the ball well and played well as a team.”

Cooper also enjoyed a spring break trip the team made to Florida, where it scrimmaged a few times and practiced every day to prepare for the season.

“We made a lot of memories together and really bonded as a team during that trip,” she said. “When we wanted to go someplace, we had to take a buddy along, which was one of our teammates.

“We got some good work in scrimmaging, practicing in the warm weather and we even had a practice on the beach that was a lot of fun. We had dinner one night with everyone who was traveling with us in attendance, and we did a lot of fun things together.”

Circleville’s Cara Cooper runs the bases against Westfall.

Cooper also signed on Sunday night to play softball at the University of Indianapolis, an NCAA Division II institution. See more about that later this week on Sporting Pumpkin.

The now recent Circleville graduate is already hard at work this summer, looking to prepare and have an immediate impact on the Greyhounds.

“I’m continuing to work on my hitting, and I am also doing some fielding work and looking to become quicker in the infield, because that’s where I want to play,” she said. “I want to head over to Indy, start as a freshman and contribute right away.”

Pickaway County Family YMCA
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