Springfield sophomore Deanna Cole broke the all-time Ohio softball record for stolen bases in a single season this year with 70. The previous record was 62, set in 1985 by Cheryl Shuster of LaGrange Keystone in 1985.
Deanna Cole is unlikely to strike fear into anyone’s heart walking down the street or in the hallways of Springfield High School.
Don’t let her stature or non-threatening appearance fool you, because when you put her on the base paths of any softball field, the narrative changes. The 5-foot-3 (in spikes) sophomore broke the all-time Ohio softball record for stolen bases in a single season this year with 70. The previous record was 62, set in 1985 by Cheryl Shuster of LaGrange Keystone in 1985.
She broke the record in a Division II sectional tournament game against East and when she swiped second base for her 63rd steal of the season, the game was stopped and her coaches and teammates presented her with the base as a memento. Cole says she had no idea that she had just set the record and didn’t realize why the game was being stopped.
“Not at all, I wasn’t keeping track of it,” Cole said. “We all had team goals and my goal was to break the record, but I didn’t keep track of it.”
Teammate Alexis Slider did keep track for Cole and after the game, all of Cole’s teammates signed the base for her and wrote short messages to commemorate the occasion. The base now resides in the trophy case at Springfield High School and will make the move to the district’s new high school building when it opens.
ART OF THE STEAL
Watching Cole on the bases, it isn’t difficult to understand why a travel softball coach dubbed her “Scary” when she was 8 years old. Despite her diminutive size, her speed can create serious problems for opposing defenses. Batting in the leadoff spot, Cole posted a .598 average, with 60 runs scored and 37 RBI for the season. Although she proved adept at bunting her way on base, she’s not afraid to swing away if teams pull their outfielders in because they don’t expect the skinny girl batting leadoff to pack much power at the plate.
“A lot of the time, maybe they do (underestimate me) because I’m small, but they’ll learn...they’ll learn,” she said with a smile.
Once she’s on the bases, it’s all about reading the defense and understanding the situation so she knows when to put her foot on the gas and take off.
“When I get on base, I normally look at the catcher and the position of either the third baseman or the shortstop, depending on what base I’m at,” she explained. “I watch the shortstop because normally I can beat most people in what my dad calls a foot race to the bag. I also look at where the catcher sets up and how the ball releases out of the pitcher’s hand to get the timing.”
Page 2 of 3 - To increase her speed and strength, Cole works out with a trainer at Force Sports, a strength and speed performance center based in Rocky River, year-round. Her workouts consist of a variety of drills involving weights and sleds to work on her explosiveness, with the aim of giving her more of a burst when pushing off from a base in much the same way a sprinter surges out of the blocks at the start of a race.
Strength training is also part of her workout schedule and although she won’t be confused with an Olympic power lifter any time soon, outfielders who have watched one of her hits fly over their head and had to turn and chase the ball down as Cole circles the bases can verify that she’s more than a slap hitter.
Although she may not have known what she had just done at the exact moment she broke the stolen base record, Cole is fully award of what her feat means in the annals of one of the most-storied softball programs in the state of Ohio. With nine state titles, the Spartans have a sign that looms over the backstop at their home field behind Young Elementary School, reminding both visitors and those looking to add another title to the record books of what Springfield softball has accomplished.
This year’s team cultivated a family atmosphere to the point that Cole considers her teammates to be her sisters.
The Cole family has claimed a place in Springfield athletic history as well. Three members of the family are honored in the high school’s trophy case, including Deanna’s father Dan and her sister Danielle, who played left field for the 2005 team that won the school’s most-recent state championship.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve seen my dad and my aunt and my sister, they’re all in the Springfield showcase and for me to know that I’m going to be in there now, I feel like I’ve continued on the family’s legacy,” Cole added.
This year’s Spartans had their hopes for a title of their own dashed in a 2-1, 11-inning loss to Fairless in a Navarre Division II district final. In the fifth inning of that game, Cole had what appeared to be a key steal of third base to set up the go-ahead run in a 1-1 game. Instead, the umpire called her out even though a a photograph of the play clearly showed that no tag had been made. That image currently resides as the background image on her iPod and the memory of the play doesn’t seem likely to fade any time soon.
Still, the calendar continues moving forward and that means more training and travel softball this summer. To those who suggest that she will burn out playing softball virtually all year long, Cole has a simple reply.
Page 3 of 3 - “I do it every day and there’s never a dull moment. I love it and some people say, ‘You might end up burning yourself out,’ but I know I never will,” she concluded. “It’s just something that’s in my heart.”
Opposing teams may want to ramp up their security accordingly.
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB