Area stars reunite on diamondPublished 8:57pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Polar opposites, yet exactly the same, former Washington Daily News Co-Softball Players of the Year Amanda Daw and Cassie Harrell joined forces at Pitt CC this season and the middle infield duo made a better combination than peanut butter and jelly.
In high school they were rivals competing for a Four Rivers Conference crown as the scrappy 5’ 5” Daw played with a Green Monster-sized heart and batted .377 at the top of the Panthers’ lineup while in the field the shortstop used a prison guard’s determination to let nothing escape her.
While Daw was more along the lines the prototypical table-setting middle infielder, Harrell was nothing of the sort. The Williamston second baseman/cleanup hitter stood at roughly 5-feet, 10-inches tall and toted a bat that was capable of clearing the table faster than Kobayashi on the Fourth of July.
In the field the rangy second baseman made up for her lack of foot speed with the anticipation of a psychic as she always appeared to be in the right place at the right time to corral would-be hits. Harrell would finish her senior year batting .406 with 24 RBIs as she guided her Tigers to a fourth place finish in the state.
At the end of the 2010 season both their efforts where impossible to ignore as they were crowned WDN Co-Softball Players of the Year.
This year at Pitt CC the duo was reunited as teammates with one subtle change: The strong-armed Harrell would move to short while the speedy Daw patrolled second. Together they combined to lead the Bulldogs to a 33-17 record as they advanced all the way to the final day of the Region X tournament before being bounced.
Daw, a two-year star for Pitt, hit .317 with one home run and 14 RBIs as a sophomore while swiping 21 bases and recording a .950 fielding percentage en route to being named first-team all-conference. Harrell, in her first with the Bulldogs, batted in her customary four spot and hit .309 with one round-tripper and 29 RBIs.
While the two didn’t communicate much in high school they formed an unspoken bond that is created out of mutual admiration.
“We knew of each other. I knew she was Amanda, the best player on her team and I always wanted to get her out,” Harrell said. “And it was the same way for her.”
Indeed it was.
“Before this year we were always big competitors through high school,” Daw said. “This year, being able to play ball with her, I love the girl. She’s a great person, great athlete and I enjoy having her on my team much more than I did playing against her.”
Upon graduation Daw would go on to play for Pitt CC while Harrell’s softball career was halted like a runner stationed on third on a shallow fly.
While scouts loved her bat, they weren’t sure how her lanky frame would translate in the middle of the diamond on the college level despite the fact that the three-time WDN All-Area first teamer covered more ground than tarp in high school.
Refusing to switch positions without at least getting an opportunity to prove herself, Harrell switched sports as the former WDN All-Area first team power forward elected to play basketball her freshman year at Brunswick CC.
“I would have played softball, I’m so much better at softball,” Harrell said at the time. “It just got in my head that I was too big and that I wasn’t able to do much.”
If Harrell missed a beat in her return to the diamond, Daw never noticed.
“She’s an all-out straight up baller,” Daw said. “Anything within her area she’s going to get it. Whatever she has to do to get a ball she is going to make it happen.”
After one season at Brunswick where she played in 21 games and averaged three points and two rebounds per contest, Harrell wanted to go back home, both literally and figuratively. In the summer of 2011 Harrell made the two-plus hour trip from Wilmington to Pitt County and within no time found her way back on the softball field thanks to an assist from former Williamston teammate and Pitt CC Bulldog Heather Jackson and her family, who helped arrange for Harrell to attend tryouts.
“Honestly, I had heard Cassie was going to play basketball so I just kind of moved on,” Pitt CC softball coach and athletic director Junior Bailey said of recruiting Harrell out of high school. “But one of her teammate’s mother said why don’t you give her a look and she came out to the tryout. I thought she might play first base or something like that but as we looked at our team in the early fall we realized she could definitely walk in at our shortstop position.”
While Harrell worked to win her new coach over, Daw had him at hello and for the first time in his seven years as the Bulldogs coach Bailey announced there would be freshman captain.
“Amanda Daw is Tim Tebow in a female body,” Bailey said. “She’s got that personality, she’s got that desire and she is always encouraging to her teammates and her coaches. This kid dives at practice every day. She never lets balls go and she out-hustles everybody. She’s that coach’s dream kid.”
Having gotten a first-hand look at Daw this season Harrell said she was amazed on a daily basis.
“I wouldn’t ask for another middle infielder. I knew that if there was a ball hit to the middle infield she was going to get it,” Harrell said. “She dives after balls that you never thought she could get but some how she always got the job done.”
While the two have vastly different styles of play, both offensively and defensively, they complimented each other perfectly.
“With us playing middle infield we always had our own little thing going on, on the field,” Daw said. “We just knew exactly how each other felt every game all season long. We just remind each other of each other so much and it was nice to have somebody on the team who knew exactly how you felt.”
After two year’s of being a coach’s dream at Pitt CC Daw has now had one of her own dreams come true as she will move on to play Div. I softball at Campbell University next season.
“It’s really exciting. It’s always been my goal to play D-I ball and I would like to thank the Pitt program for helping my improve my ability and get somewhere like this,” Daw said.
As for Harrell, the slugger said she will spend another year with the Bulldogs and then evaluate her options. If she continues to progress the tandem could be reunited once again at the Div. I level.
“She needs to keep making adjustments,” Bailey said. “She is willing to learn and willing to grow and after one more year of softball at this level, if she remains committed to softball, I could see her going on and playing softball as well. She’s got the power and the ability … If you’re coachable and willing to make the adjustments I don’t think there is a limit to what she can do.”