Salo hired as new Escanaba softball coach

Gary Salo

ESCANABA — With the former head coach, Jamie Segorski, of Escanaba softball stepping down last week, the position was up in the air. This, coupled with the fact that six of last season’s team were seniors, may have discouraged some fans.

However, on Monday it was announced that Gary Salo will be taking over the head coaching position.

For those unfamiliar, Salo has an extensive background in softball.

“I’ve done quite a few years of little league and travel ball,” he said. “John LaMarche, who was an excellent coach in the Esky softball system, retired a few years ago. After that, I went into jayvee head coaching. Just last year I had the opportunity to move up into a volunteer coaching position with the varsity.”

The Eskymos have been successful in previous seasons, bringing home the Division 2 state title a year ago. The problem that Salo now faces is that most of his core group of players have graduated.

“Last season, we were led by six seniors,” he said. “That’s quite a big core group to replace, but we’ve always done a good job at promoting talent.”

The goals for this season are simple: maintain and improve.

“We’re going to have a brand new infield this season,” he said. “However, we had quite a few role kids who did really well for us last year. We talked about it, and they have a great opportunity here. They’ll work hard, and we’ll put a schedule in front of them that’s challenging.”

In order to meet and exceed the expectations from previous seasons, they’ve set up a difficult travel schedule before they’ll play locally.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of work in Wisconsin and downstate,” he said. “We’ve set up a doubleheader in Kaukauna (Wis.), and we’ll be traveling to Ashwaubenon (Wis.). There’s also at least one day where we’ll play three games. (As for Michigan), Millington came up to our invite last year, and they’ve put a great showcase together this year. We’ll be facing them and Dakota who were number one in Division 1 for most of last year. We’ll finish off our travel portion in Ann Arbor.”

Once they return to the Upper Peninsula, it won’t be an easy ride either.

“We also have a tough conference schedule. Menominee was added (to the conference) and Negaunee has a solid program,” he said. “I think, at this point, we’re pretty close to a full schedule. It’s great.”

Salo’s coaching philosophies can be broken down into two words: defense and consistency.

“We have to play solid defense. it’s helpful that we’ve got a lot of depth and experience at pitching, but our kids do a ton of tee work too. Really, everything to make good runs happen,” he said.

“We’re also just going to try to be consistent. We’ve been very successful the last 10 years all the way down to little league and travel.”

Despite the loss of the seniors, there are some returning core players.

“Dakota Cloutier will be returning at catcher. She’s a rock solid kid behind the plate. Lexi Chaillier is an all-state caliber player in the outfield,” he said.

“Not to mention, she’s a real spark plug on offense. She’s got a powerful swing that produces runs.”

Players aren’t the only ones who are returning. Salo emphasized that the majority of the coaching staff will stay on.

“Most of our coaching staff is remaining intact. Andy Fields and Mark Cloutier are staying, and Ross Rahoi will return after helping out at Bay College. I wouldn’t want to take the job without a great support team.”

In the end, he’s optimistic about the Eskymos’ chances this season.

“We’ve got an excellent parent support group and an excellent facility,” he said. “These kids are excited to live up to the expectation of being successful.”