Johnathan Bastian was well versed about softball in the community while serving as an assistant coach for his wife, Jordan, with the Culver-Stockton College softball program.
When he heard last year that the Canton softball coaching job was open, he thought any coach would be lucky to get that job.
"I hadn't thought much about taking it," Bastian said. "I said to (Jordan), ‘Whatever coach takes them on could land on a state championship pretty easily with that group."
It turns out Bastian was the one fit for the task.
Bastian was hired to guide the Tigers, becoming the third coach in four seasons for three seniors -- pitcher Olivia Jarvis, infielder Brianna Caldwell and outfielder Katie Gaus. With that solid trio, players like infielder Laken Hugenberg and an emerging freshman class, Bastian knew the pieces were there for a run.
"We had a lot of talent," Bastian said. "I was just trying not to mess up the chemistry and get us going in the right direction."
The season was the best in Canton athletics history.
The Tigers rolled to their third Class 1 state tournament in four seasons and advanced to the state title game for the first time in program history. A 6-1 victory over Pilot Grove clinched the program's first state championship and ended years of frustration of previous Canton teams coming up short at state tournaments.
For leading Canton to a 21-5 record and capturing a state title, Bastian has been named The Herald-Whig's Coach of the Year.
"I'm thrilled this team is going to go down in the history books as the first team to win it," Bastian said. "I don't think there was a better team at our level from any spot in the lineup. It ended up perfectly, and it was really, really special."
The Tigers were ready to make it a special season from the day Bastian was hired.
"There was definitely a drive," Jarvis said. "We didn't want to go out the way we did the previous year. We wanted to make history, and (Bastian) believed in us and motivated us to get back there.
"At the same time, he never put any pressure on us or made us feel like it was something we had to do or he'd be disappointed in us."
That atmosphere helped Canton flourish and realize its potential.
"He knew we were hard on ourselves already," Jarvis said. "He always was really involved in helping us getting better everyday and getting us to where we wanted to be."
Bastian also knows the bar has been set extremely high after just one season with the Tigers.
"That's been told to me a few times," he said with a laugh. "The seniors won't be able to be replaced, but we still have a lot of good talent on the team.
"I'm not going to make it personal that I need to be two for two, but we're going to have a some good pieces to make another good run."