Hawkins' legacy assured as Stow softball opens new season

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls Bulldogs

STOW — The Hawkins clan's influence over the Stow-Munroe Falls softball program is omnipresent.

The fields at Stow are named the Doug Hawkins Softball Complex in honor of the former longtime coach, who died in May 2018 from Lou Gehrig's Disease.

On Tuesday, however, a new chapter in the family's legacy opened for the Bulldogs.

Cyla Geopfert, Hawkins' daughter and a 2005 graduate of Stow, picked up her first win in charge of the program with a 2-1 walk-off victory over Southeast.

Geopfert got a bit emotional reflecting on her father's legacy after the game. She noted Stow softball was an extended family to her.

"He's definitely smiling down today," Geopfert said. "It means a lot to me following in his footsteps. He coached me and my sisters for so long. It kind of brings it all back full circle."

Geopfert had to wait more than a year for the first game in charge of her father's program. She was promoted to head coach in winter of 2020 before COVID-19 wiped out last season.

What's more, Geopfert isn't the lone Hawkins daughter on Stow's staff. Her sister Hailey Lara — a 2003 Stow graduate — serves as varsity assistant.

"This is really cool to have us both here," Lara said. "She's just like my dad in the way she coaches."

"It's big for us to be doing this together," Geopfert said.

Both sisters noted with a laugh they tried to reel Cyla's twin sister, Carly Cullumber, into also joining the staff, but Cullumber did not join.

Standouts in both softball and basketball, Geopfert and Cullumber were each inducted into the Stow Athletic Boosters Hall of Fame in 2017.

Geopfert noted not everything is seamless for her yet. She admitted before the season she had no idea where Southeast was located.

When the Pirates and Bulldogs met, however, Doug Hawkins would have enjoyed watching the pitchers' duel the game became.

Stow sophomore Makayla Huddleston was the hero both on the mound and at the plate.

In addition to a complete-game win in her high school debut, Huddleston also hit the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"I pretty much just let go of all my nerves. I was waiting for my pitch, and when I got it I swung as hard as I could," Huddleston said, noting she was looking for an inside fastball.

Huddleston went 2-of-4 and also reached on an error. On the mound, she allowed one earned run and two hits, with four walks and 15 strikeouts.

"You wouldn't know it was her first high school game," Geopfert said.

Huddleston had to be sharp, as Southeast pitcher Cecelia Stephens (1-1) was almost as good.

Stephens took the loss despite pitching a complete game, allowing two earned runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

"Never happy when you lose, but I'm proud of our girls' effort today," said Southeast coach Erin Muncy. "Cece did a great job and [catcher] McKenna Miller called a great game.

"[Huddleston] did a great job for them. Her change-up killed us all game long, and we just found out she's only a sophomore."

Aside from Huddleston, Stow's top offensive player was lead-off hitter and third baseman Aubrey Mansfield. Mansfield led off the third inning with a double — Stow's lone extra-base hit — and scored on an RBI ground out by Rachel Edmonson to make it 1-0.

Southeast came right back in the top of the fourth inning. After Stephens drew a lead-off walk and stole second, an RBI single by Miller made it 1-1.

Huddleston's poise was tested in the top of the seventh inning when she walked the first two batters, but she came back with three consecutive strikeouts.

"We've got to be able to get a run home when we've got two on and nobody out," Muncy said.

Stow center fielder Marissa Romano opened the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single and then went to second on back-to-back groundouts.

Mansfield pulled up with a leg injury as she ran to first base on one of those groundouts. Geopfert said her status was uncertain going forward.

With extra innings looming, however, Huddleston smacked a solid single to left-center field, scoring Romano to end the game.

"As a team, we struggled at the plate a bit today, but our girls adjusted," Geopfert said. "Even the girls who weren't seeing that ball were able to put a bat on it."