Trumbull's Cassi Barbato to play DI softball at Radford

Trumbull's Cassi Barbato signs her National Letter of Intent to play Division I softball at Radford (Va.) University.

Trumbull's Cassi Barbato signs her National Letter of Intent to play Division I softball at Radford (Va.) University.

Trumbull Athletics / Contributed photo

TRUMBULL - Cassi Barbato showcased a strong throwing arm and intuitive communication skills to win the starting catching position at Trumbull High as a freshman. Now the senior’s determination to play against tough competition in the offseason has earned the her an invitation from Radford University head softball coach Hope Creasy to join the sign Highlanders and play Division I ball in the Big South Conference.

Radford checked all the boxes when Barbato was doing her college searches online.

“I went to a couple camps down there and fortunately I got recognized,” Barbato said. “It is a beautiful campus and it has the right number of students (under 8,000) for me, not too big not too small. I was mainly looking at four schools, and Radford was by far my favorite even before softball. Then I met my coaches and it became my first choice. You see what fits for you. I wanted to go to a school with a good environment. Radford softball and the schools they play was very impressive.”

At Radford, Barbato will join a program which won 8 consecutive games and went 13-3 in 2019 before the season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, the Highlanders went 36-19 and were runners-up in the Big South.

“Every encounter we ever had with Cassi was great,” said Creasy, who saw Barbato playing over the summer in tournaments with Stars National out of Vienna (Va.). “She is super coachable, busting her tail all the time, and getting after it. She stood out for all the right reasons. We kept tracking her and built a relationship.”

When asked what makes Barbato the right person to fill the important position of being a catcher, Creasy was quick to respond.

“It is her confidence and communication skills. Her being able to call the game and direct a gamed is huge. A catcher has to speak up and get out of that comfort zone. She has shown us that she can do that,” Creasy said.

Barbato helped head coach Jacqui Sheftz’ Trumbull team make it to the Class LL finals as a freshman and semifinals as a sophomore.

A defensive whiz, Barbato wants to shore up her hitting and said, “In softball, if you can’t hit you can’t play. Coach Sheftz and (Trumbull assistant) coach Kelly Larson been by my side to get me better.”

Barbato’s commitment to playing softball would be difficult to question.

With the high school season shutdown last spring, she found competition playing for the coach Kyle Marable’s Stars National Premier program.

The 6-hour drive from Connecticut didn’t sway Barbato, who said of playing in tournaments with the Stars: “It is the most competition I’ve seen. I faced a lot of girls going to high-end schools and moving on to Florida, Notre Dame, Duke. Playing there helped with my skills and to mature as a player. Facing those pitchers motivated me to work harder.”

Creasy was satisfied with Barbato’s drive to succeed.

“In the world of travel ball never rule anything out,” she said about those 6-hour drives. “When she verbaled to us my biggest message to her at that point was that she was playing the best competition and by no means did we want her to take a step back. We always tell our commits that now is when the work really begins, being able to focus on your skill set and getting better.”

There were no other local players on the Stars, but that didn’t mean the Barbato had to go it alone.

“There were times where my dad Jamie and my mom Tracy drove me the six hours to practice in Virginia,” Barbato said. “My folks are my biggest supporters and they’ve had a great impact on every part of my life. Both my parents love the south. I was being looked at by Radford and two other southern schools. I found a great fit at Radford with a great group of girls. I just loved the team. Coach Creasey went to Radford. It was a nice thing to know that she loves the school and is committed to the team.”

Creasy returned to Radford after serving as the head coach at Louisburg College (N.C.) for the 2014-15 season. During that campaign, she led the Hurricanes to a 31-16 record - an 11-win improvement over the previous year - and the NJCAA Region X Championship.

Creasy said: “I’m from here grew, I grew up 10 minutes down the road. I played here at Radford and then ventured out for a couple years and began my coaching career. When an opportunity calls you back home it is hard to pass it up. The coaching staff, players, and alumni has fed into this process to get us where Radford softball is today. I feel that it is special to get people like Cassi to join the program to make it better and help us keep moving in the right direction.”

Barbato will study physical education at Radford.

“My 7th and 8th grade gym teacher Mr. (Jeff) Napoli) got me hooked on working with middle school or high school kids,” Barbato said. “It was seeing the way he worked, got everyone involved, and seeing how much he enjoyed it. Ultimately, sports are going to come to an end, but your grades will decide your future and reflect upon you.”

HIGH SCHOOL HOOP & HOPES

Barbato, who has played both AAU travel basketball and softball growing up, is hoping to lace up her sneakers for one more basketball season.

“We are all hopeful, even a little season will be better than nothing. We are keeping positive. We started virtual conditioning on Dec. 4,” said Barbato, an All-State selection as a junior. “Coach (Steve) Tobitsch is a great coach, a great guy off the court. He pushes us to be our best every practice. He never settles. As much as I do love basketball, softball kind of takes priority. They were always neck-to-neck, but I’ve always had that softball mentality in my head.

Following basketball, Barbato wants to return to the diamond with classmates Mackenzie Bruggeman and Shannon O’Shea for their senior season.

“I felt bad for our seniors last year because of COVID-19,” Barbato said. “They had been working for three years and it was canceled on them. Some would never play softball again and that was heartbreaking. I’m optimistic about this year and getting our senior season in. We have been playing together for a long time and we want to go out together.

“Coach Sheftz always pushes us to focus on the game and kind of learn a better aspect of the game. She teaches us to play smart and to be ready for any situation,” Barbato said. “We work hard and have fun doing it. It is a great team to be around. To hopefully play three times a week against the great competition in the FCIAC, plus another summer of AAU, I think will help prepare me for college.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354