In this file photo, former North Union softball coach Dawn Draper walks to third base to coach during a 2018 Division III regional semifinals game. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
An era in Union County high school sports has come to an end.
Dawn Draper recently announced she is stepping down as North Union High School’s head softball coach.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once said if you cut him, he’d bleed “Dodger Blue.”
If you did the same to Draper, it would come out in North Union “Orange, Black and White.”
As Dawn Ridgeway, her maiden name, she was a standout athlete for the Lady Cats, competing in volleyball, basketball and softball.
I remember covering her as an athlete and she was a talented, hard-nosed player.
She was a true leader and one could sense at that time coaching was in her future.
After college, her high school alma mater was the only place she ever wanted to be.
She returned to NU as a teacher and coach, taking over the softball program in 2000.
Draper led the Lady Cats to numerous conference and district championships.
She guided NU to a handful of regional titles and state Final Four appearances.
North Union finished as state runner-up a few times, but a state title was elusive for her.
Nonetheless, it has been a successful coaching career for Draper.
There were questions as to whether the 2020 campaign would be Draper’s swan song.
Last year’s season was, of course, wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Knowing Dawn like I do, she didn’t want to go out that way.
She came back this spring and led North Union to a Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division championship.
The Lady Cats finished with a 12-4 slate in the division, two games ahead of runner-up Benjamin Logan.
NU’s overall mark was 20-7.
She finished her coaching career with more than 400 victories.
NU began its softball program way back in 1979 and in my memory, has only had two closing seasons – 10-12 and 12-14.
The Lady Cats have only had three coaches in their illustrious history.
Nancy Rubeck began the program, followed by John Snively.
Rubeck returned for a second stint before retiring and turning the reins over to Draper.
All three led the Lady Cats to state Final Four berths.
North Union has one of the top softball legacies in central Ohio.
Rubeck started it and continued it during her second time at the helm.
Snively stepped in and continued the success.
What Draper achieved as head coach speaks for itself.
When it’s all said and done, the next Lady Cat softball coach is going to have mighty big shoes to fill.