by nathan oster
It’s been awhile since either Greybull or Basin field a girls fast-pitch softball team, so when the fledgling Bandidas under the direction of Steva Naso played their first home game of the season Thursday night at the Art Schutte Sports Complex, it was fitting that the manager on the other side of the field was Dave Coronado.
The former Greybull resident and Wyoming Amateur Softball Association Hall of Famer manages a girls team in Worland, where Dave and his wife Deb now reside. Coronado remembers the last Greybull-Basin team because he coached it.
Coronado wasn’t the first to put Greybull on the map in the sport. Bob Hallcroft, who ran the recreation district at the time, coached Greybull girls fast-pitch softball teams in the 1950s and 1960s that won five state championships. He, too, is in the WASA Hall of Fame.
Worland got the best of the Bandidas on Thursday night, but that doesn’t bother Naso.
The two programs are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of experience.
“We’re a first year team and on a good day, we have nine or 10,” said Naso. “We played a game in Powell last Friday and had only eight players, so we had to borrow a player. But that’s the nature of a start-up program.”
The Bandidas have lost all five of their games thus far and will return to action Saturday at a triangular of sorts in Powell. They play Powell at 10 a.m., Powell plays Worland after that, and Basin-Greybull plays Worland in the final game.
The Bandidas will play their next home game on Wednesday, June 27 when Powell comes to town for a twinbill. After that there’s a doubleheader in Worland on June 28, followed by a tournament in Worland on June 30 and July 1.
Naso’s nine include Mallory Brown, Grace and Torrie Sanford, Bailee Drewry and Stella Wade, all of Greybull, and Faith Naso, Kayleigh Long, Evelyn Rosencranse and Amy Coy, all of whom attend Riverside schools.
Drewry and Naso are the most experienced players. Both moved to the area recently — Bailee from California, Faith from Florida.
It was in Florida that Steve caught the fast-pitch fever. He umpired for more than 25 years and his daughter played the sport and loved it. So when he moved to Basin to start working for the school district, one of the first things he learned was that girls fast-pitch softball wasn’t played here.
So he started asking around, trying to gauge interest in starting a program. He found that the interest was there. But then the hard work of organizing the team began. The Basin Recreation District got behind it immediately. Ten sponsors soon followed, including Auto-Medx, Blair’s, Black Mountain Grill, Basin Pharmacy, FIR Auto Service, Big Horn Federal, State Farm, Historic Hotel Greybull, Security State Bank and TCT Communications.
While the wins have been hard to come by, Nason said he and the other coaches have seen tremendous improvement. “We’re a 16 and under team, but we’re young,” he said. “A lot of our players are in middle school or freshmen in high school, so we have the potential, if these girls keep playing together and keep the enthusiasm level where it is, to be pretty good.”
Naso said he was proud of his team for rapping out three or four hits against the Worland pitcher they faced last week, calling her one of the top hurlers in the state. The two teams have met three times. From game one to game three has been “like night and day” in terms of improvement, he said. “We are not quite as competitive as we need to be, but they have their moments when I say, ‘Oh my goodness,’ after seeing the plays they make or the hits they get.
Naso said the emphasis is on teaching fundamentals. That’ll continue through the end of the season. Pitching is, of course, a big key to fast-pitch success and Naso has relied primarily on his daughter and Drewry. Others have tried, but aren’t yet game-ready, he said.
With just a few weeks remaining in the season, Nason said he and his coaches want to establish “that the fast-pitch softball team is for real and has a great future. The word is spreading. Those girls who are playing Little League in Greybull and Basin, they, too, will have an opportunity to continue playing ball. There are a lot of similarities between baseball and fast-pitch softball, but they’re pretty different in a lot of ways, too.”
For one thing, the fields are shorter. So, too, is the district from home to first and from the pitching rubber to the plate. “When fast-pitch softball is played at a high level, it’s a fast-paced game,” said Naso. “The biggest thing they have now is an enthusiasm for the game. We want that to continue. Our goal is to go the state tournament next season.”
Assisting Naso this season are Ben Coy and Johnny Velasquez.