The first coach to guide any Burlington Central sports team to an IHSA Elite Eight state final tournament is returning to the game.
Wade Maisto, an Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was officially announced Monday as the Rockets' new head softball coach. He replaces Cray Allen, who stepped down after two years on Rocket Hill to become the head coach at Harper Junior College.
"There's multiple reasons," Maisto said when asked why he wanted to return to coaching. "I just think it will be fun working with the girls again in a coaching setting. I've always enjoyed working with kids in that kind of setting."
Maisto was Central's head softball coach for 15 years, taking the 1985 and 1993 Rockets to the Class A Elite Eight. He stepped down after the 1998 season with a record of 334-101, eight regional titles and nine conference championships. He returned to be Scot Sutherland's assistant for five years, a period in which Maisto's daughter Erica, who is expected to apply for an assistant's position with the program, became one of the most decorated pitchers in area history. He will retire as a teacher in June after 33 years at Central, currently teaching social studies and cooperative education. Maisto is a Larkin graduate who earned his bachelor's degree at Illinois State University and his master's at Northern Illinois. He also was the Rockets' head girls basketball coach for three years, then returned to that job on an interim basis for the 2008-09 season.
"Coach Maisto brings Central the leadership, motivation and credibility needed to continue the winning traditions here at Central," said Rockets' athletic director Steve Diversey. "Coach Maisto has been a boys and girls basketball coach at the high school and middle school levels and he has established great programs here at Central. He has a plan on how to continue to develop the winning program here. Central High School is very excited and honored to have such a strong leader as our new head softball coach. Anytime I can hire someone with his credentials it's a positive move for the program."
Maisto, who also coached in the Wasco Diamonds travel softball organization from 1998 to 2005, will take over a program that has had as much success as any in the Fox Valley for many years. Under Sutherland, the Rockets finished third in the Class 3A state tournament in 2009. Last year's team won a regional championship, going 28-9. The Rockets were 46-26 the last two years under Allen and has won a total of 16 regional championships. The Rockets will return sophomore Angie Morrow and junior Brooke Gaylord to the pitchers circle next spring as well as a host of other varsity experienced players.
"The coaches since me have done a great job with the program," said Maisto. "Sutherland, Lowell Oranger and Cray all did a great job. This is a chance to build on what I feel was started about 30 years ago; to continue the tradition of good solid softball at Central. There's certainly no rebuilding here. Cray's teams the last two years were ready to play. He was a hard worker.
"I'm familiar with the conference and the area. I know there's a lot of work involved in but I'm excited to get going."
The Rockets are scheduled to open the season March 19 at Sycamore.