500: West Forsyth softball coach Kevin Baity picks up milestone win last week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

Humble is defined on dictionary.com as “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.”
That pretty much sums up the 27-year career of Coach Kevin Baity, the head coach of the West Forsyth softball team. However, that changed last Friday night after Baity and West Forsyth defeated Reynolds in a Central Piedmont 4-A doubleheader, giving Baity his 500th and 501st wins respectively.
After the second game last Friday, which was played at West Forsyth, Baity was surprised by seeing family, friends, current and former players, and current and former administrators at the school.
“I did know. I knew I had 490 going into this year,” Baity said. “…I felt pretty confident we’d get 10 wins sometime along the year.”
Baity credits much of the surprises, as well as his career, to his wife, Tonya.
“Again, my wife, she did it on 300 and she did it on this one that she actually pulled some surprises that I was not expecting at all,” Baity said. “I did not in any way anticipate having all those people there, especially all my players and all of my former administrators.
“Honestly, I don’t ever look outside the fence, so I had no clue. In about, I think it was the second game we had about six outs to go, and I saw somebody coming in, and I thought, ‘That’s really strange for somebody to be coming in this late.’ And they were having to pay, which I thought, ‘That’s stupid we’re still charging somebody.’”
The second game progressed and Baity said he noticed some unusual things outside the fence.
“The last inning, I saw T.R. Richards (former athletic director at West Forsyth) coming from the baseball field, and I thought, it hit me then, I thought, ‘OK, something’s up.’
“And then I started looking at all the people, and I thought there wouldn’t be this many people for this game.’ And that was the first time it really hit me when we were going out on defense for the last time that my wife had gotten something out.”
In addition to Richards, former Principal Kurt Telford and his wife, Betty, were there, as well as former Athletic Director Durwood Pack, current Principal Kevin Spainhour, current Athletic Director Mike Pennington, and current assistant Athletic Director Shannon Casey, whose daughter, Meredith, is a freshman on the team.
“I thought it was awesome,” Baity said. “There was four girls there from the first year I ever coached, and that was slow-pitch. My first year as the head varsity coach was the last year of slow-pitch, so that was ‘96. And there was four of those girls there. That was wild.”
Five players from Baity’s last slow-pitch team in 1996 or his first fast-pitch team in 1997 — Christina Gabard, Marissa Mickey, Beth Hagie, Alissa Messick, and Kasey Drane were there last Friday.
West Forsyth won the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship in 2016, defeating Fayetteville Cape Fear in Raleigh, and six of the players — Bri Lucero, Sydney Joyner, Anna Epling, Hannah Runge, Caitlin Hill, and Alex Rodriguez, who was a freshman and played JV that season, from the state-championship team — were also there.
“It meant a lot,” Baity said. “It really did. There was one girl that was on that first team I coached that drove from Wilmington. That was Christina Gabard.”
According to Baity, he’s coached 145 players over his 27 seasons as the head coach for the Titans.
“I had a dad come up to me, and I won’t mention who, but Friday night, and this is from a (2017 graduate),” Baity said. “He came up to me and it meant as much or more than anybody. I can’t remember exactly how he said it and what all he said, but he pretty much said that he wanted to thank me for all that I did for his daughter, what I meant for his daughter, and that he would trust his daughter to go with me anywhere.
“And the faith that I had instilled in her, just things that really touched me, that’s what it’s all about. When he said that, and his daughter graduated in 2017, that just meant a lot. It really did because I would like to think that all parents felt that way, but they don’t. But you know, I love these kids.”
Aside from all the wins Baity has as the head coach at West Forsyth, he obviously has fond memories of that scorching hot weekend in 2016 in Raleigh a N.C. State after West Forsyth won the state championship.
On that day, Baity jumped with jubilation after the win and bear-hugged his daughter, Madison, who is now one of Baity’s assistant coaches. But Baity, despite celebrating that team, remembered the teams that came close to winning a state championship.
The 2005 team finished 30-3 and the 2016 team finished 30-2.
“I do remember saying, we would not have made it to the point we were at then if it wasn’t for that 2005 group, if it wasn’t for the 2010 group,” Baity said. “You know, what they did, they have built the program. It wasn’t just about the 2016 group.”
Since Friday’s doubleheader sweep, Baity has added to his win total with a 16-0 win against Mount Tabor this past Monday, to push his record to 501-183 through Monday night.
“I’m going to tell you, this group I have, they’re good,” he said. “And they’re young. We’ve got two seniors on the team. That’s it. The majority are freshmen and sophomores.”
Those players from past teams, along with Baity, have helped build the foundation that is West Forsyth softball.
“I am I guess most proud that I have done it at one school,” he said. “I think the big thing now is coaches jump all over…I guess just knowing that since the first, I don’t want to say I because I didn’t start it, but I was there the first year fast-pitch started, and that was in ‘97.
“And I guess just knowing that the program has been pretty successful in fast-pitch, that makes me feel good. But the biggest thing again is the girls that every year, our team is pretty much on the athletic honor roll. So, I’ve been fortunate and blessed to coach really good girls — hard-working, good young ladies, who are good in the classroom.”