All-Area Softball Coach of the Year: Wheeler's Joe Cawley

What They're Saying About Joe

" He definitely has made us work together a lot more as a team. He definitely motivated and he encouraged. He set the bar high. At first we didn't think we could make the state tournament. He kept reiterating that could happen."

Summer Cipriani, Wheeler junior pitcher

What You Need To Know About Joe

To gain some perspective on what the Wheeler High School softball team accomplished this season, all you have to know is what coach Joe Cawley was doing the last time the Lions won a state tournament game in 1991 ... playing for Union Trust in the Mystic Little League. This season, Wheeler was 14-9, qualifying for the tournament for the first time since 2006. And the Lions won two state tournament games, including one in the second round over top-ranked Cheney Tech of Manchester, propelling the Lions into the quarterfinals. "It was a lot of fun," said Cawley, whose team turned things around from a 5-14 season a year ago. "Even on the long, miserable bus rides, playing teams across the state. Winning is contagious and the same with losing, it's contagious. We just had to pull out some of those one-run games this year and expect that. It was strange to lose for the first time. It was pretty cool." Cawley, in his second season, is The Day's 2012 All-Area Softball Coach of the Year. A former left-handed pitcher and football player at Stonington High School, graduating in 1996, Cawley started coaching softball at the middle school in North Stonington before accepting the job as varsity coach. Cawley admits he's still brushing up on his softball knowledge, but a few key things have played into the Lions successes: their talent (everyone returns next year but All-ECC catcher Kaitlin Banks) and Cawley's competitive spirit. In any case, the landscape has changed at Wheeler under Cawley, who teaches English at both the middle school and high school level at Wheeler. " It definitely was a morale-booster to have a winning season," senior pitcher Summer Cipriani said. "Everybody was so pumped for us; we had middle schoolers coming up and high-fiving us. It was crazy."

- Vickie Fulkerson


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