A new Stosich softball era begins at Butte High

Ryan Stosich has been waiting on deck a few years. Now, he will step into the box and take his cuts.

Stosich and his father, Steve, are switching roles this year from what their spots have been the previous nine years in the Butte High softball dugout. Steve Stosich retired from the position last season after a 125-win career that included a state championship, four third-place finishes and a fourth while qualifying for the state Class AA tournament seven of those years.

Through it all, Ryan Stosich, a former college baseball player, had been the go-to assistant, the bench coach. So, when the elder Stosich decided to shelve the cleats, Ryan decided to try to keep the job in the family. However, it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I waited right up until the last day to apply,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to do it without him (his dad). I told him if he wasn’t going to help, then I wasn’t going to do it.”

So, Steve Stosich is on the bench as an assistant beginning this weekend when the Bulldogs open the 2015 season.

Actually, the team has enjoyed unusually fine outdoor sports weather since practice started more than two weeks ago and have actually been able to use the ever-improving Stodden Park facilities. So, the Stosich tandem has been in effect since then already this season.

“We’ve been out on the field and it’s been nice,” Ryan Stosich said.

The response has been very good, he reported.

“We had 30 or 31 open gyms (in the offseason) and almost all of the girls were at most,” the new head coach said. “And it wasn’t easy for a lot of them. A lot of the girls were playing basketball, but they knew they had to be there.”

A core of good returnees will be back for the Bulldogs and the promising potential in the newcomers still has to be sorted out, a process that began with the open gyms, continued through these early practices and will even continue a ways into the season.

The Butte High team went 10-12 for the 2014 season, one of only two in which the squad didn’t go to state during the Stosich era.

However, there were good moments and performances on which to build.“We will miss the seniors who graduated,” Stosich said, pointing especially to Dawson Community College pitcher Jessica Robertson, who has already tossed a no-hitter in her college rookie season. “But, we have seven seniors this year who will contribute for us.”

They did as underclassmen.

Senior catcher Maria Michelotti was selected to the Class AA All-State first team last year and heads the list of returnees. Justyce Connole saw duty in center field and shortstop, and did some pitching last year. She is a candidate to succeed Robertson. Ashten McCloskey and Bethany McLean were the starting keystone last season — McCloskey at second base and McLean at shortstop while Amanda Spear was the designated player. Ellie Hoffenbacker came off the bench and saw time at first base, the outfield and as a pinch hitter. All seven are expected to be starters again this season, though Stosich said some positions may be changed.

Another senior, Tristan Walks, is contending for an outfield spot.

The rest of the roster is fairly young and light on experience with infielder/catcher Isabelle Bonney, outfielder Abby Burke and infielder MacKensie Daily the only juniors, and outfielders Katelyn Alley and McKenna Savage, and infielder Alyssa Walsh the only sophomores. A dozen freshmen fill out out the roster and some will have to play early, including at least one of the pitchers — Kennedi Ferriter, Kaidy McClafferty or Katlyn O’Brien.

All three also play in the infield. Other freshmen are catcher Emma Cox, outfielders Carley Fink, Madison Joseph, Lynsi Peterson, Brooke Raiha and Lorraine Salcido, infielder/outfielder Jenna Maroney and infielders Brianna Ossello and Jenna Walker.

All the pitching candidates worked hard in the offseason, Stosich said.

“We had 14 Friday 7 a.m. open gyms for them and they didn’t miss many,” he said. “So, we’re not really toward any one of them for a No. 1 just yet. We’ll see how they do in competition on Saturday.”

Butte High will open the season on Saturday in the Great Falls Jamboree where it will face four opponents in games limited to an hour each in length. They will go against four different teams and will learn who they are when they arrive at the Multi-Sports Complex.

So, a lot of girls will get to play during the day and quite a few questions should be answered and decisions made based on the play. Stosich noted that some players are better in games than they are in practice, and some are better in practice than they are in competition. So, he has watched them for two weeks in practice and now is anxious to see how they perform in competition.

Some positions could be changed and some girls could be playing i spots they haven’t.

“It’s not what you play in ASA or what you played in Little League,” he said. “It’s what will be beneficial to our program.

“We’ll run it all by seven coaches and until then, we don’t know who all will be playing.”

The Bulldogs will open their home season on Tuesday with a 3 p.m. game against last year’s state runner-up, Missoula Big Sky. It is set for Stodden Park. Big Sky and defending champion Billings West, along with contenders Billings Senior and Helena Capital, as well as Class A power Belgrade are all on the early part of the Butte High schedule.

“Playing tough teams at the beginning of the season will help us at the end,” Stosich said. “Making it to the state tournament is an ultimate goal, but we have to look at what’s in front of us first.”

Much of the Butte High coaching staff remains intact. Pitching coach Eric Mankins is back for his 10th season in the program as is former head coach Steve Stosich. Steve Schulte is in his seventh season, former Butte American Legion baseball head coach Mike Anderson, who has Ryan Stosich as an assistant in the baseball program, is in his “fourth or fifth” year with the softball program and Kalli McCloskey, older sister of the second baseman, is in her third. Travis Johnson, another former American Legion baseball coach, is new to the Stosich staff, though he worked in the past with the softball program when it was directed by Mike Svejkovsky. Johnson replaces Corey Cutler, who stepped up to officiating NAIA basketball this season and decided the time spent conflicted with his softball duties.

“It’s a great coaching staff,” Ryan Stosich said with appreciation.

He said the difference between he and his father’s coaching styles will be evident to the public and already is to the players, especially now that he has taken on the spotlight role. He, too, emphasizes that if the players want to get better, they’ll have to put in the time, but said he doesn’t lecture much about it.
“I’m not much of a talker,” he said. “And I’m a little looser, not so ruffy-gruffy.”

However, Steve Stosich won’t be getting a break on time put in himself, either, the new coach said with a sly grin.

“He’ll put i more time because he’s an assistant coach, now, and actually has some duties.” 1 comment

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1 Comment

  • Luke Thatcher
    March 27, 2015, 10:50 am

    Best of luck, Stos!


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