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That‚??s the number of losing seasons Bath softball coach Laura Ford has had in her 27-year career.

In fact, her only .500 season was her first year when the Wildkittens went 8-8.

For Ford‚??s leadership and coaching ability, she will be inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association‚??s Fastpitch Softball Coaches Hall of Fame on Friday at the Columbus Hilton.

‚??There are lots of great coaches who are in there, like (Elida‚??s) Dorothy Edwards and Barb Short from Archbold, who I looked up to. It‚??s a great honor to think I‚??m going in with people like that. ‚?Ľ It‚??s an award for the program and the great kids and coaches I‚??ve had.‚?Ě

Ford has compiled a record of 561-128, including winning the 2001 state championship. Her 561 wins stands atop all Ohio softball coaches.

Over the years, Ford has had 18 seasons of 20 or more wins. She‚??s won 17 Western Buckeye League titles, 15 district titles and has made seven state appearances. The Wildkittens were state runner-up in 2000, one year before they won it all behind all-everything pitcher Grace Luginbuhl.

Ford played on the first softball team at Bath, as a sophomore in 1974. She went on to play at Defiance College.

In her first year as Bath‚??s head coach in 1984, the team finished at .500. That would never happen again.

‚??I don‚??t remember the first game, but I remember my first season,‚?Ě Ford said. ‚??We went 8-8. But the kids were pretty young. We had only one senior. To see what was coming around the corner was pretty exciting. We went 22-2 the next year.‚?Ě

Over the years, Ford has stressed defense.

‚??I‚??m a No. 1 stickler for fundamentals,‚?Ě she said. ‚??We try to do the little things right. We take pride in getting a bunt down.

‚??Most games are lost, not won. It can come down to one mistake and we try to minimize those. Offensively, we put pressure on the defense all the time.‚?Ě

Stressing fundamentals of defense and bunting just doesn‚??t include the high school Wildkittens. It filters down to the younger grades.

‚??We have separate seventh and eighth grade teams and both went undefeated this year,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I want those coaches to teach the kids how to bunt, run bases and play defense. The technical stuff, we can teach them.‚?Ě

Keeping it fun has been a key, as well. The Wildkittens have always been known for their cheering and singing wacky cheers throughout the game.

‚??It‚??s more of a relaxed atmosphere (than basketball),‚?Ě she said. ‚??I want it to stay fun. I try to practice an hour an a half and be done.‚?Ě

The highlight was the 2001 state championship.

‚??That was an unforgettable time,‚?Ě Ford said. ‚??That group went to state three years in a row. ‚?Ľ Those kids all realized how important Grace was, but they were quite the jokesters. There was never a dull moment. Everyone was laughing and working at the same time.‚?Ě

This spring will be Ford‚??s 28th year with the Wildkittens. At this point, she plans to retire from teaching after she reaches 30 years. Coaching will be fully evaluated at that time.

‚??I‚??ll have 30 years in two years and that‚??s what I‚??m looking at,‚?Ě Ford said. ‚??I love to do it (coaching), but there are other things I want to do.‚?Ě

Losing, however, has never been one of those options.

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