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Stepping back down to assistant

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After an impressive season as the Henry County softball team’s head coach, Suzanne Cates has decided to step back down to assistant �

By Tommie Kendall

Suzanne Cates will be on the sideline next spring for the Henry County High School softball team, but as an assistant coach.

Following a record-breaking year as the team’s head coach, Cates has decided to step back down to assistant — a position she held for three seasons under Jon Kasten from 2006 to 2008. She sent in her resignation letter before the season was complete, then finished the schedule. Another head coach has not been named but HCHS Athletics Director Todd Gilley said one is in mind.

“There’s no question that she’s very knowledgeable about the game of softball,” Gilley said of Cates, who won the prestigious 2000 Ms. Softball award while playing for Butler. “They were very, very successful this year. It just came down to she was in a situation where she has a second child on the way and doesn’t have the time commitment it takes to be a head coach. She is going to stay on staff as an assistant, though.”

Cates, who could not be reached for comment, led the Ladycats to their best season on record. They finished with a 24-12 overall record, won the 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament the first year they were eligible to compete, finished fourth at the All “A” state tournament and won their fourth straight 31st District title. Henry ended its season with a 4-1 loss to Walton-Verona in the opening round of the 8th Region tournament.

Individually, freshman third baseman Ally Vaughn and sophomore pitcher Jessica Booher were named to the All-Region Team, and Vaughn became the first player from Henry elected to the All-State Team when she was named Second Team for Class 2-A players. Those awards were reflections of Cates and what the Ladycats were able to accomplish throughout the spring.

Following the season, Cates helped coach the West Juniors in the annual East-West All-Star Series at the University of Kentucky alongside Lynn Dickey of Heath and Miello Distefano of Larue County. HCHS junior shortstop Karie Powell also played for the West Juniors, who went 1-2 during the series.

While Cates was an assistant coach under Kasten, the Ladycats started to build a promising program. Kasten resigned his position as the head softball coach last spring after six seasons. From a rocky start that blossomed into one of the top teams at HCHS, Kasten led the Ladycats to 104 total wins during the six-year stretch, the school’s first three North Central Kentucky Conference titles, three 31st District championships, and two trips to the 8th Region semifinals. In his last season, the Ladycats went 17-14 and won the district title for the third straight time since making the switch from the 30th District in the state’s realignment.

Kasten decided to continue to coach the volleyball squad in the fall and work as the assistant athletics director, but left the softball position last May. Shortly after, Suzanne Cates was promoted to the new head coach. She went on to have, on paper, the best season since the fastpitch program was started in the 1990s.

While the third coach in three seasons has not been officially named, the upcoming squad looks brighter than ever. The Ladycats lost three players to graduation — left fielder Heidi Smith, center fielder Miranda Hornback and base-runner Katie Mertz — but return a core group of players with Powell coming back as the only senior. Key players will be first baseman Taylor Clark, second baseman Macie New, shortstop Powell, third baseman Vaughn, catcher Amanda Wilson, right fielder Veronica Hornback, pitcher Booher and utility player Krista DeBurger.

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.