By Brad Morris
Despite being a left-handed shortstop, Logan Elm alumnus Bekha Lucas was one of the slickest fielders to grace the softball diamonds of Pickaway County.
Lucas was putting on a defensive clinic in a district championship game against archrival Circleville, a contest the Braves prevailed in 6-1 on their way to back-to-back district championships in 2009 and 2010 that helped establish the program as a power in southeast Ohio.
“Bekha made a couple of fantastic plays in the hole and (Circleville coach Dave Truex) yelled over from the third base coach’s box, ‘Do you ever make an error,” recalled former Logan Elm coach Jeri Hartley. “On the next chance that Bekha had, she made an error, and she flashed Dave a very angry stare and Dave had the biggest grin on his face. Then Dave told her, ‘Well, I guess you are human, after all. I was wondering about that with how well you play the game’.
“Dave really respected Bekha as a player, especially with how much work and desire she put into playing a great shortstop for us. Circleville and Logan Elm are rivals, but there is a deeper respect for the game and Dave has been a great ambassador of that during his years of coaching at Circleville.”
Lucas would have been a strong contender to be recognized as the most outstanding Pickaway County softball player in her class, but there was not an award for such an achievement for the member of the Class of 2010.
That changed on Sunday night when Circleville shortstop Cara Cooper was honored as the inaugural winner of The Dave Truex Award, which will now be presented annually to the top senior softball player in the county.
Sporting Pumpkin editor and co-founder Brad Morris selected Cooper as the first winner of the award for a brilliant season that saw the shortstop hit .660 with a .727 on-base percentage. She produced 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.
A ceremony was held on Sunday night to honor Cooper, Truex and the softball history of the county.
Morris consulted with coaches and softball alumni in the county to discuss a potential namesake for the award, with Truex being the name most cited as deserving.
After leading the Tigers to 156 baseball wins, seven league championships and a district title, Truex made the transition over to softball and has led his alma mater to a 416-272 record in 28 seasons with four district championships, two state tournament appearances and a state runner-up finish.
“Dave is very deserving of the honor and it honestly wouldn’t have been a hard choice, in my opinion,” said former Westfall coach Fred Redman. “Dave’s longevity of coaching is impressive, but more important to me is he coaches the right way.
“He truly cares about his players; he teaches them to play the game the right way and how to handle themselves on the field. Dave’s teams are always competitive and that’s not an easy thing to do with the way talent can ebb and flow at schools our size.”
Hartley enjoyed the competitive banter that she had with Truex over the years.
“Dave is someone that you respect coaching against, because he coaches great kids that work hard and play the game the right way. Circleville has had a number of kids go on and have good careers in college, and Dave has a part in that,” she said. “Dave is very knowledgeable about the game and ultra-competitive, but he has also softened a little bit over the years.
“I enjoyed talking to him about our teams, our families and what was going on in softball around the area.”
Whenever Circleville and Westfall met on the diamond to open the season, Redman noted how he used it as a barometer to see what type of team he would have and what they needed to work on.
“I always enjoyed playing against Dave and Jeri in the first week of the season, because I would have a lot better idea about what we had as a team and some areas that we needed to work on,” he said. “Every time we played Dave, I wanted to beat him, but I knew whether we won or lost that playing Circleville would make us a better team, long-term, and I hope Dave felt the same when he played us over at Westfall.
“One of the reasons why the schools in the county have had a lot of success over the years is the coaches understand that you have to play quality competition to push your team to get better and to peak at the end of the season.”
Hartley believes having the family involved in the program has helped lead to the program’s culture and success.
“I know Dave’s family means a lot to him, just like our families mean a lot to us, and having his family involved in the program has made the program better and I think also really made it a lot of fun for Dave to continue coaching,” she said. “Having Jada coaching with him, coaching Jill on those Final Four teams and having Patty with him on the bench keeping the book, making cookies and doing other things for the kids. It’s a nice atmosphere for the kids to be part of.”
Hartley agreed with Redman that the award was rightfully named for Truex.
“It takes a lot of time and dedication to be a coach and to do it the right way, and Dave has given a lot of himself to Circleville over the years,” she said. “It’s nice to have an award to honor outstanding softball players, like Cara, and those who will come after her, and it shows the advancement that girls’ sports are making.
“Dave has helped coach and develop a number of great players, like Cara, over the years and what he has meant to Circleville and Pickaway County softball makes him a great choice to be the (namesake) of the award.”