Father-daughter duos take over Baldwin softball program

Sunday, February 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The timing is ideal.

The Baldwin softball program is highlighted by a unique coaching situation in 2023.

Baldwin has not one but four new coaches for the spring season: two pairs of fathers and daughters.

Ron Santillo, 51, has taken over as head coach and is assisted by his daughter Carly Santillo, as well as Steve Dadig and his daughter Taylor Dadig.

The Baldwin dads bring with them an extensive coaching background in softball.

“I was doing instruction for years after college and continued when Carly was still young. I worked countless clinics at RMU over the years,” Ron Santillo said. “I was an instructor and coach with the Pittsburgh Spirit softball organization for 10 years. My brother was the Pittsburgh Spirit catching instructor for years until I did the same for five years.

“I switched back and forth from baseball to softball with Carly and my son Nick. I think that provided valuable experience in all areas of the games, especially situationally. I also coached in a competitive travel baseball program. I’ve worked with numerous WPIAL players over the years, and now that Carly and Nick finished (playing) last year, it was the right time to focus on the Baldwin program and get back on the field with Carly.”

Best friends Taylor Dadig and Carly Santillo have joined in as Baldwin assistants after wrapping up their stellar softball careers at George Mason and Pitt-Johnstown, respectively.

“When Gina (Fuchs) resigned as Baldwin’s coach in June, it opened an opportunity for the four of us to coach together,” Steve Dadig said. “The girls said they wanted to give back to the Baldwin-Whitehall School District and help build the softball program, passing along their knowledge and experiences from college and at Baldwin.”

The four softball aficionados were hired in November.

“Coaching with my dad is awesome,” Carly said. “We have always been a great team; our roles have just changed a bit. I was the player; he was the coach. Then, I was the player, and he wasn’t the coach. Now, we are both coaches. One thing remains throughout our softball journey together: He’s my dad and I’m his daughter. So although our roles have changed throughout the years, he is always my dad first and because of that, we have a very strong bond.

“I am seeing this even more now coaching with him. When discussing our visions and ideas for the team, we can talk through things together and listen to where each is coming from. Mostly, we feel the same about things, considering I learned everything I know from him. My dad and I have so many memories from softball, and I think that really plays an integral part in working with him on the field and at practice.”

Along with valuing the opportunity to coach with her father, Taylor said giving back to the program is important.

“It’s a special experience to coach alongside my dad because it’s been an opportunity for me to gain a new perspective and give back to a program and sport that has given us both so many amazing memories as I’ve grown up,” she said.

“I told the players on Day 1 that Carly and I would never ask them to do anything we haven’t done ourselves.

“Our dads have been so supportive in reinforcing how much hard work it takes to be successful because they’ve witnessed the effort Carly and I put in throughout our playing careers.”

The timing was perfect for the open coaching positions for Carly and Taylor; both graduated from college in May 2022. And both bypassed the NCAA’s covid fifth year of playing eligibility to accept job offers in Pittsburgh.

Carly is a special education teacher at The Watson Institute; Taylor is a civil engineer for PennDOT.

“It’s beyond a dream job to coach with Carly,” the elder Santillo said. “Really, the four of us have been on a softball field since the girls were 6. It’s my favorite memories in life to grab a bucket of balls, bat and gloves and go to the field with Carly and Nick and hit and pitch to them for hours. We have had so much exposure to the sport. It is something that we talked about doing when the girls were done. Gina decided to step down, and it felt right.

“And daughters or not, these two girls are coming off huge senior years in college. To have their experience and work ethic on staff is invaluable — not only from a softball standpoint, but to have been there and taken advantage of the opportunity, handling the rigors of a student-athlete and dealing with typical struggles of a college student while playing at a high level. It’s great watching them work with the girls. It’s special.”

The two new assistants were teammates at Baldwin where they enjoyed highly successful four-year careers from 2015-2018.

Taylor and Carly led the Highlanders to four consecutive section titles and four WPIAL final four appearances, including a championship game in 2016.

“The current Baldwin softball team really looks up to Taylor and Carly as great role models for both academics and softball,” Steve Dadig said. “The team has been working hard in the weight room and offseason workouts. building their team chemistry and fundamentals and working to get 1% better every day.

“The team has already given back to the community, volunteering their time to help at the Whitehall Library’s Christmas gingerbread party.”

Taylor Dadig was a four-year starter at shortstop at Baldwin and is believed to hold the career record for hits with 138. She finished with a .545 career batting average, was a four-time all-section selection and was the Bress Award recipient as the female athlete of the year in 2017-18.

Dadig graduated summa cum laude at George Mason, where she earned an impressive list of accolades in the Atlantic 10 Conference and nationally. She was a four-year starter at shortstop or center field and ranked first in the conference in hits and second in batting average as a senior.

“After introducing Taylor to softball at age 4, I became a student of the game and still am to this day,” said the elder Dadig, who is 55. “My coaching experience dates back to our GBWAA days, which led to coaching high-level travel ball with Ron in the Pittsburgh Spirit softball organization from 2009-2018. The opportunity to travel the country with Taylor while playing and coaching against elite competition for 10 years was an amazing experience.

“I had the opportunity to again travel the country to watch all of Taylor’s college games. Watching her compete at the highest level of college softball afforded me the opportunity to take advantage, watch and learn how college coaches handled warmups, handled in-game adversity and other certain situations.”

Dadig the dad is a 1985 Baldwin graduate. He was a point guard for the Highlanders during the 1985 basketball season that saw the team post a 25-0 record before finishing 27-2 as WPIAL runner-up.

“Softball has given Taylor and I so much to be thankful for,” he said, “and now having the ability to give something back to the game is just an incredible opportunity for us. Over the past 18 years, we — Taylor, my son Josh and myself — have spent countless hours together at Baldwin High School’s field.

“I watched Taylor excel for four years at Baldwin, and now I have the opportunity to coach with her on this same field. I watch and learn from Taylor as she draws from her experiences of being a successful Division I student-athlete and her ability to demonstrate and relay that info to our team. It’s awesome.”

Carly Santillo was a four-year starting catcher at Baldwin and ended her career with a perfect fielding percentage. She was a four-time all-section player who did not allow a passed ball in her career. Santillo also threw out 80% of opposing stolen base attempts.

At UPJ, Carly graduated summa cum laude, led the Panthers in hitting in her senior season and landed numerous Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference awards.

Carly and Taylor played together on the same teams from ages 5 to 18.

“We both (father and daughter) want the girls to have the time of their lives playing, like Taylor and I did,” Carly said. “We want to give back everything — and more — to Baldwin softball. We are a great pair and can’t wait for the season to begin.”


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