Prep Softball

Three coaching changes haven't kept Canton from succeeding

Canton softball coach Jonathan Bastian | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 17, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Oct. 18, 2017 1:41 am

CANTON, Mo. -- Olivia Jarvis, Brianna Caldwell and Katie Gaus have had an offseason routine of individual workouts and playing travel softball for the past four years.

Meeting a new coach also became part of that routine.

Jonathan Bastian was hired during the summer to become the third coach in the four years. Their first coach was Logan Stapp, who resigned after one season at Canton. She was replaced by Kirsten Johnston, who coached the Tigers for two seasons before being let go after her teaching position at the school was eliminated.

"It was hard," Caldwell said. "We never had to stop working for our spot. Every year it was competitive."

Several coaching changes in a short period of time often signals turbulence in a program or poor seasons.

That hasn't been the case in Canton.

The Tigers (19-5) are heading to their third Class 1 state tournament appearance in the last four seasons and have gone a combined 67-18. Jarvis, Caldwell and Gaus will be playing in their third state tournament when Canton plays North Harrison (21-6) in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday in Springfield, Mo.

"It's a blessing for sure just to experience this almost every year," Jarvis said. "It's exciting to experience this with this group."

Bastian knew of the recent success Canton had. His wife, Jordan, is the Culver-Stockton College softball coach, and he also served as an assistant.

Bastian knew of the talent he was inheriting and didn't want to make drastic changes.

"I didn't want to come in with a 'It's my way or the highway' type of attitude," Bastian said. "It's not that I don't call the shots, but we weren't starting from scratch. It was easier for them to get on board, and I tried to take the pressure off them of having to prove themselves because I knew about them and knew they were a good group."

Keeping assistant coach Tina Birck on staff was also pivotal. She's been with the Tigers throughout the coaching changes.

"This transition wouldn't have been as smooth without Tina," Bastian said. "She's super informative. I was asking her a ton of questions from the start, and she knows the girls from when they were younger."

That allowed Canton to focus on the game.

Last year's season ended abruptly in the opening round of district play with a loss to Scotland County on Canton's home field.

"That was so foreign to us," Jarvis said. "We weren't really sure what to do."

It lit a fire in them to get back this season.

The Tigers learned new things from their new coach and retained things they learned from their previous two coaches.

"Coach Stapp taught us how to win and be motivated," Caldwell said. "This year, Coach Bastian is teaching us a lot of fundamentals and being smart about the game.

"We've never had a coach who puts us down. They've all known we want to win and, they've had high expectations."

That expectation is to play in the final game of the season.

"We're just motivated to get to the state championship," Gaus said. "That's something we've wanted since freshman year."