Debra Tolar

Former Stratford coach Debra Tolar is the second winningest softball coach in state history.

The winningest coach in Stratford High School’s athletic history has taken her place alongside the state’s other coaching legends.

Former Stratford softball coach Debra Tolar is now in the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame. She was inducted Sunday evening at the SCACA’s annual all-sports clinic in North Charleston’s convention center.

“It’s surreal,” Tolar said. “It’s definitely not anything I thought about. I never thought about 700 wins or getting the field named after me. I was just having a good time and I was at a great place.”

Tolar wrapped up a 31-year career with 728 victories and a pair of state championships, including a successful run to the Class 5A crown in 2016. She rode off into the sunset on top when the Lady Knights defeated Byrnes High School 2-1 in a three-game series to bring home a state title to the Berkeley County School District.

Stratford named the softball field in her honor in April, 2018.

The first state championship came in 1996 and the Lady Knights played for three other titles. Tolar’s teams won 19 region titles in 28 seasons on Crowfield Boulevard.

Individually, Tolar was state coach of the year three times and region coach of the year 18 times. She was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the High School Sports Report after retiring.

“There’s no way this happens without Bobby Marion and Tony Smith,” Tolar said. “Tony built the program on the JV level and Bobby had so much knowledge. The JV players came to us prepared and I looked at Bobby and me as co-coaches. We fed off each other. They were the strengths. I was the one who benefited from their work. This is not about me at all. This is about dedication from them, other assistant coaches, from the players that were committed and the supportive parents.”

The first SCACA Hall of Fame inductees were enshrined in 1993.

The lone other Stratford coach in the hall is former football coach and athletics director Ray Stackley (2008). Stackley and former SHS Principal George McCracken brought Tolar on board.

Stackley noticed how Tolar’s teams always seemed to hungry to win.

“She developed a grittiness with her girls’ teams,” he said. “They would scrap. They would fight you tooth and nail to stay in the game. She was a consistent winner. Just look at the number of times they played for state championships and the championships they won.”