Reid Lamport coached the Poland softball team to a Division II state championship in 2011 and the Bulldogs could very well repeat this spring.
But no matter what happens, Lamport - a 1970 Newton Falls High School graduate - said this will be his final season as a high school coach. In recent years, Lamport has also served as senior pastor at Church of The Rock in Poland, and when the Bulldogs' season ends - perhaps after the Division II state tournament May 31-June 2 in Akron - he will transition into that role on a full-time basis.
Lamport has been a teacher and coach since 1974, when he graduated from Bowling Green State University and took a job as the baseball coach and assistant football coach at Montpelier High School in Williams County.
"It's the last exit on Ohio Turnpike before the Indiana line," Lamport said.
Lamport, 60, also coached and taught at Pymatuning Valley (1975), Mathews (1976-78), Warren Western Reserve (1978-79) and in Largo, Fla., before returning to Ohio to become head football coach at Jefferson. He spent 1981-85 as the Falcons' coach, then took over at Poland in 1986. He coached the Bulldogs' football team until 1992. This season is his 23rd as Poland's softball coach.
Lamport still has a passion for competition and for softball, but he accepted another calling.
"I'm not retiring because I'm tired of it," he said. "There are other things I've been called to do in my life. I still love the game, but I don't have the time now. I'm a full-time pastor."
Lamport said his decision was made before this season began. It also wasn't influenced by what he called a strong freshman class. Lamport expects that group will carry on the Poland tradition once this year's senior class - led by pitcher Erin Gabriel and infielder-pitcher Jenna Modic - conclude their high school careers.
"This is it," he said. "I'm wrapping it up. I've made a commitment."
Lamport said Matt Campbell, who has been part of the baseball coaching staff at Poland, will take over the softball program in 2013. Campbell moved over to the softball program this spring to familiarize himself with the Bulldogs going into next season.
"He's going to be an outstanding coach," Lamport said. "He has a great mind for the game. He's going to do really well."
Lamport played quarterback for Andy Pike at Newton Falls and later was a quarterback at BGSU. He and his wife Michele raised three children - Katie, Jessica and Reid. All three are Poland graduates.
Katie and Jessica both played softball for their father with the Bulldogs. Katie graduated from Poland in 1999. Jessica graduated in 2003. The younger Reid Lamport graduated high school in 2004.
Michele (DeMasi) Lamport grew up in Niles and is a Niles McKinley and BGSU graduate.
In addition to teaching, coaching and his work with Church of The Rock, the elder Reid Lamport is the author of a book - released a year ago - entitled "Unleashing the Power of Encouragement."
FULL DISCLOSURE: Lamport was the football coach at Jefferson - my alma mater - during my years there. It doesn't seem possible he's 60 years old, but if I'm closing in on 45, I guess it must be true.
"There are some days I feel it could be 75 and some days my mind still thinks I'm 35," Lamport said.
ON THE PROWL: Newton Falls hadn't won more than seven games in each of the last three seasons, but the Tigers are now a force to be reckoned with in the All-American Conference's National Division. Newton Falls is off to an 8-1 start behind pitcher Bailey Shade.
On Saturday, Shade pitched in both games as the Tigers swept a doubleheader from Sebring, 5-2 and 10-0. She struck out 17 and allowed two hits in seven innings in the opener. The second game went just five innings and Shade worked four hitless innings and struck out nine.
In 50 innings, Shade (8-0) has struck out 112, walked just four and allowed just seven hits and four earned runs.
Newton Falls visits LaBrae at 5 p.m. on Monday.
SPRING VACATION: Champion, which went 27-0 and won the Division III state championship last season, returns to action Monday after a week off. Coach Cheryl Weaver said several members of the team were on a Florida trip with the school's marching band over spring break last week.
"I hope we can pick right up where we left off and keep the momentum going," Weaver said.
That shouldn't be a problem. Champion (3-1) visits a struggling Campbell Memorial program at 5 p.m. on Monday. The Golden Flashes went into their break after a 14-0 win over Niles and a 1-0 victory over Boardman. Among the Red Devils' outings last week were 26-0 and 14-0 losses to LaBrae and a 21-2 loss to Brookfield.
ROAD TRIP: Lamport's Bulldogs (5-0) begin a Florida road trip at 7 p.m. on Monday against American Heritage in Delray Beach.
Poland's trip also is scheduled to include a game against powerhouse Palm Beach Gardens, Florida's top-ranked team, and Gulliver Prep. Lamport said the latter team was 18-0 this season before the Bulldogs even played a game.
"We're excited," he said.
Monday's matchup should have a Southeastern Conference flavor. Gabriel has committed to the University of Tennessee, while American Heritage's top pitcher has committed to the University of Florida.
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