Fortunately for the Lady Red, the Northern Ohio League title wasn't the only motivator in Tuesday's game.
Meredith George's sacrifice fly to right field in the top of the ninth inning drove in Hannah Lilly for the game-winning run. The Lady Red (13-3, 4-0) beat Sandusky 7-6 in nine innings and Bellevue coach Walt Snyder picked up career win No. 500.
Snyder becomes the sixth coach in Ohio history to earn 500-plus softball wins.
He joins Bud Weisgarber (Strasburg-Frankin), Laura Ford (Lima Bath), Jerry Kelbley (Westervile South), Susie Harrison (Granville) and Paul Fernandez (Hamilton Ross) on the all-time coaching list.
“I have had a lot of great players,” Snyder said “I started out 27 years ago and the program has come a long way. I've had outstanding coaches, outstanding players. It's not coaching so much, it's the players you have. I have had some great athletes.”
Bellevue's athlete's got the team off to a strong start scoring two runs in the first inning, but the Lady Red found themselves in a 5-2 hole at the top of the third.
Bellevue slowly shaved the margin and took control on the lead again in the fourth inning. The Blue Streaks (5-7, 3-1) tied it back up in the bottom of the fifth.
The Lady Red got one hit in the eighth while the Blue Streaks retired three in order.
In the top of the ninth inning, Lilly got on base with a bunt to start the Lady Red lineup.
Jessica Zeitz sent one down the left baseline to get on base and Kelsey Yantz followed up with a sacrifice bunt to advance Lilly and Zeitz before Geroge's game-winning RBI.
“We knew Sandusky was a good team so we wanted to get the win even more for our coach,” Lilly said. “I was happy for Meredith that she got the RBI. I knew it was far enough that I could get home.”
Lilly went 3 for 4 and scored two runs. Yantz was 3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs. Jessica Zeitz went 4 for 5 with a walk, a double and scored two runs.
Yantz said her nerves grew with the innings.
“I trusted my team to make the plays but you never know what is going to happen,” Yantz said. “Whenever somebody got on base it was a little nerve racking but we pulled through.”
Yantz's family has been able to watch several of Snyder's milestones.
“My sister was a part of his 400th win so it was a good goal to reach for,” she said. “I think the fact that we never gave up and we played as a team, even when someone had a bad play, we were with them. We picked them up when they had a bad play and we came back for each other and for our coach.”
As close as he was to the milestone, Snyder said the game wasn't a fun one to coach.
“It wasn't. It was nerve racking,” he said. “I don't think we've played an extra inning game in four or five years. It's been a long time.”
The Lady Red started sophomore pitcher Morgan Andrews and the Blue Streaks used five hits and a walk to earn their 4-2 lead against Andrews and the Lady Red.
Laura Doerner took over in the second inning but the Streaks were still on fire and picked up another run.
The Lady Red used three hits in the third to shave the margin to one run. Yantz's double to left field in the fourth inning combined with two Sandusky throwing errors helped the Lady Red get back on top.
“A game like this brings the competitive nature out in everybody,” Blue Streaks coach Tom Garard said. “I wanted to put a wig on and go out there and play. We all got into the game, and that is what I told the kids. This is why you play the game.”
Garard said base running hurt his team Tuesday.
The Streaks had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh after base hits by Maddie Hayberger and Kelsey Peters. Peters stole second and third but a ground out cut the Blue Streaks short of a seventh inning stunner.
“We came up on the short end of it today, but they don't have nothing to hang their heads on. We're as good as they are.” he said. “We hesitated at times when we should have gone on our instincts. I think we were a little unfortunate in the seventh inning, where we could have had the game-winning run. but the ball got hit to the pitcher. You don't want it to go to the pitcher in that situation.”
Jena Meggitt went 3 for 4 with an RBI, Bailey Smith was 3 for 5 with two double and an RBI and Peters was 3 for 5.
The Lady Red remain undefeated in the NOL and are still in the running for their second conference title.
Bellevue has won eight of the last ten NOL titles, losing in 2010 and 2011.
“It feels really good. We have that cushion now but we aren't going to give up,” Yantz said. “We are going to keep playing hard and hope to go undefeated in the league.”
Read more softball in Wednesday's Sandusky Register and Norwalk Reflector.