LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2018 Easton/NFCA Assistant Coach of the Year recipients were announced on Wednesday afternoon. Garnering honors this year are Paige Cassady (DI / Liberty University), Jessica McIntyre (DII / Lee University), Robin Baker (DIII / Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Kayla Adams (NAIA / University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma), Shelby Shelton (NJCAA DI / Howard College), DJ Johnson (NJCAA DIII / Rock Valley College), Alex Mascarenas (Cal JC / Mt. San Antonio College), Taylor Gould (Mt. Hood CC / NWAC) and Alyssa Dillard (High School / New Palestine HS [Ind.]).
These awards salute the efforts of coaches from the various NFCA membership categories for their tireless dedication to the sport of softball and to the continued education, growth and development of young women, both on and off the playing field.
The winners were nominated by NFCA member coaches and selected by a panel of their peers on the NFCA Awards Committee.
NCAA Division I: Paige Cassady, Liberty University
In five seasons with the Flames, Cassady has been an integral part of coaching staff which has steered Liberty to 155 victories in the past four seasons, the winningest four-year span in program history. The hard work was rewarded in 2018 with a Big South regular season and tournament titles and a NCAA Regional finals appearance. As the Flames’ pitching and catching coach, Cassady has been the force behind the turn-around of the LU pitching staff. Liberty hurlers have recorded more wins and posted a lower ERA in each of her five seasons. Recently promoted to associate head coach, Cassady has shown a tireless commitment and dedication to the student-athletes and the program, along with her success impacting their lives both on and off the field.
“She is truly amazing at what she does and who she is,” said Liberty head coach Dot Richardson. “Without a doubt, she is one of the best pitching and assistant coaches in the game. I can say this with confidence because of working beside her over the past five year and seeing who and how she empowers our student-athletes to reach their full potential.”
NCAA Division II: Jessica McIntyre, Lee University
McIntyre will be entering her sixth year with the program in 2019. Battling through Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from August through February last season, McIntyre continued to be involved with the team throughout her treatment. Along with her coaching responsibilities, the University of Mobile graduate has implemented a book club program, which involves the coaches meeting weekly with each class to discuss the book they are reading. According to head coach Emily Russell, the book club is good for not only developing relationships with the players outside of softball, but also helping them understand the importance of being a lifelong learner. Additionally, she is instrumental in the Flames making big strides as they transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II, while also mentoring 2018 NFCA All-American Taylor Moran.
“Jessica has done so much for this program,” said Russell. “During her fight with cancer, she showed up even on days when that was all she could do. Showing strength and resiliency, Jessica is dedicated to our program and players despite how difficult her treatments were. We are lucky to have a person like Jessica associated with our program.”
NCAA Division III: Robin Baker, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Baker, a 17-year veteran on the Blugold coaching staff, works with catchers, calls pitches and is integral in the defense, all while serving as the athletic department’s associate athletic director. Her pitch calling, according to head coach Leslie Huntington, is masterful. She is heavily involved in practice planning and logistics, freshman study tables and budget management, while adding efficiency to recruiting when evaluating recruits.
“Robin has been with me my entire tenure as head coach and I couldn’t do this without her,” said Huntington. “She is stability in an unstable game and has helped me grow into a more patient, compassionate person and coach. She always treats our players like family, which plays an integral part in our relationships with alumni.”
NAIA: Kayla Adams, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma
In her third season with USAO, Adams helped the Drovers to their first-ever NAIA national title and a school-record 57 victories. Adams focuses on recruiting, game preparation, player evaluation and academic coordination. With her guidance, seven student-athletes were named all-conference, two earned NFCA All-America honors and Emily Cerny was named the 2018 Schutt Sports/NFCA NAIA National Player of the Year. Adams was responsible for creating a positive and productive environment for the student-athletes, while charting and monitoring the academic progress of each player. Her hard work paid off as USAO finished with a 3.12 GPA and four student-athletes earned Easton / NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete honors.
NJCAA DI: Shelby Shelton, Howard College
A member of the Howard coaching staff the past three seasons, Shelton helped her alma mater to WJCAC and Region V West titles, along with three appearances in the NJCAA DI national tournament. As a member of a two-person coaching staff, Shelton is involved in all aspects of the program, including recruiting, infield and outfield play, study hall monitoring and field work. Under her guidance, two Hawks earned 2018 NFCA All-America honors, including outfielder Madoline Seumalo, five garnered NFCA All-Region recognition and six all-conference selections.
NJCAA DIII: DJ Johnson, Rock Valley College
Johnson joined the Rock Valley coaching staff in 2014 and has played a key role in the Eagles’ five consecutive NJCAA DIII national titles. Instrumental in all aspects of the program, Johnson works primarily with outfielders. Three position players flourished under Johnson’s tutelage in 2018 earning first-team NFCA All-America honors. In addition to his on-field coaching duties, Johnson recruits, monitors study hall and lines up fundraising opportunities.
Cal JC: Alex Mascarenas, Mt. San Antonio College
Mascarenas, the program’s lead hitting and infield coach, played an integral role in Mt. SAC winning the 2018 CCCAA Softball State Championship, one year after a runner-up finish. His expertise has influenced the Mt. SAC program to top-three rankings in offensive and fielding categories. Under his tutelage, several student-athletes have garnered NFCA All-America honors, player/pitcher of the year recognition and all-state plaudits, while 20 have gone on to top NCAA Division I and II universities. Additionally, Mascarenas, is a part-time Kinesiology adjunct instructor and also conducts youth field and hitting clinics.
NWAC: Taylor Gould, Mt. Hood CC
Gould has spent the last two years on the Mt. Hood coaching staff, mentoring the outfielders, who have been a stalwart defensively. Under her guidance, Makiah Johnson was named a 2018 NFCA All-American. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer after the 2018 NWAC championships, Gould went through several treatments, but never skipped a beat as a coach, attending open practices and hitting the recruiting trail.
“Taylor’s work ethic and passion for the program are always on display,” said Mt. Hood head coach Brittany Hendrickson. “Taylor is the type of assistant that head coaches dream about having. She is devoted, passionate and knowledgeable about the game. She is a great example to student-athletes about overcoming adversity.
High School: Alyssa Dillard, New Palestine HS (Ind.)
In 10 years as the varsity assistant, Dillard has helped New Palestine to three state championships. The former high school catcher handles pitch-calling duties and works with pitchers, while providing her collegiate third base experience to the infielders during practice. Dillard, a fourth-grade teacher and mother of two young boys, gives willingly and tirelessly to our players, passing up several head coach positions the last several years to stay with the program.
“Alyssa is a terrific role model and gives our players a person to talk to and emulate,” said head coach Ed Marcum. “We would not have been nearly as successful without her!”