American Heritage catcher D’Kota Cassady’s dreams have a way of coming true.
When she was 11 years old and living in Lake City, she got a chance to see the American Heritage campus during a softball travel-team trip.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if I could come to school here?” she said to her parents, Phillip and Marcy.
Five years later, that became reality. America Heritage administrators called her just one week before her sophomore year was to begin at Fort White. Her parents quickly put their house up for sale and enrolled her at Heritage.
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Last year, Cassady aspired to win a championship, and that happened, too, as the Patriots rallied from a 10-2 deficit in the Class 5A title game to defeat Belleview in the highest-scoring softball state final in Florida history, 11-10.
Her latest dream is to go out as a repeat state champ, and the senior is two wins away. The Patriots (24-1-1), ranked 10th in the nation by MaxPreps, will face Boca Ciega on Wednesday in Vero Beach.
The title game is at 7 p.m. Thursday, also at Vero Beach, and a rematch with Belleview is a possibility.
Heritage is relying heavily on Cassady, whose nickname is “Tank” because she figured out — at age 5 no less — that playing catcher would ensure her playing time since so few kids wanted to play the position.
And although Cassady is not very big — 5-4 and 138 pounds — she is as strong as her nickname, squatting 315 pounds and hitting .404 with one homer and 22 RBI.
Her main job, though, is catching Heritage’s star pitchers, senior Jenna Goodrich (13-0, 0.39 ERA), who has signed to play at Georgia Tech; and junior Madison Canby (9-1, 0.79 ERA, four saves).
“D’Kota always has a plan,” said coach Marty Cooper, who is trying to lead the Patriots to their seventh state title and third in the past four years. “She has a plan on the field, and she has a plan with her academics. She’s grounded.”
Indeed, Cassady, who has a 4.1 GPA, has an academic scholarship to the University of Arizona, where she plans to walk on to the softball team.
Cassady had athletic scholarships from other schools — Florida Atlantic called her one minute after midnight on the first day the rules allowed for her to be offered — but her most grandiose dream yet revolved around Arizona.
“I want to study medicine and do reconstructive surgery, treating burn victims and others who may need help,” she said. “That’s been my dream since middle school.”
Hopefully for the sake of humanity, Cassady’s biggest dream will come true.
If you go
What: The state softball championships.
When: Wednesday through Saturday.
Where: Historic Dodgertown, 3901 26 St., Vero Beach.
Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $8 for cars, $25 for buses.
Defending state champions: Class 8A: Valrico Bloomingdale; 7A: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Pembroke Pines Charter; 5A: Plantation American Heritage; 4A: Pensacola West Florida; 3A: Miami Westminster Christian; 2A: St. Pete Canterbury; 1A: Chiefland.
Wednesday’s schedule: Class 1A semifinals: Jay vs. Sneads, 10:35 a.m.; Bell vs. Chiefland, 11:50; Class 3A semifinals: Lakeland Christian vs. Jacksonville University Christian, 1:05; Westminster Christian vs. Moore Haven, 2:20; Class 7A semifinals: Bartow vs. Cantonment Tate, 3:35; St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Sarasota, 4:50; Class 5A semifinals: Glen St. Mary Baker County vs. Belleview, 6:05; Plantation American Heritage vs. Gulfport Boca Ciega, 7:20.
Thursday’s schedule: Class 1A final: 11:05 a.m.; Class 3A final: 1:35; Class 7A final: 4:35; Class 5A final: 7:05.
Friday’s schedule: Class 4A semifinals: Callahan West Nassau vs. Alachua Santa Fe, 10:35 a.m.; Coral Springs Charter vs. Fort Pierce Lincoln Park, 11:50 a.m.; Class 2A semifinals: St. Petersburg Canterbury vs. Monticello Aucilla Christian, 1:05; Boca Raton Grandview Prep vs. Belle Glade Glades Day, 2:20; Class 8A semifinals: Lithia Newsome vs. Oviedo Hagerty, 3:35; Coral Reef vs. Douglas, 4:50; Class 6A semifinals: Ocala Forest vs. Orange Park Oakleaf, 6:05; Doral-Stuart South Fork winner vs. Tampa Chamberlain, 7:20.
Saturday’s schedule: Class 4A final: 11:05 a.m.; Class 2A final: 1:35; Class 8A final: 4:35; Class 6A final: 7:05