ST. JOE - Paige Williams and her Martins Ferry softball team are quickly forming a love-hate relationship.
For the third time in five days, the Purple Riders rallied late in the game to pick up victories, the latest coming Friday.
Trailing the entire game, Martins Ferry (4-4) scored once in the fifth and another in the seventh to tie Bellaire at 2-2 before exploding for seven runs in the eighth for a 9-2 Buckeye 8 triumph on the Bellaire Middle School diamond.
Martins Ferry’s Kylie Stalder steals second base as Bellaire’s Katie Fry applies the tag during their game Friday in Bellaire.
''I just told the girls that I love every single one of them to death, but I also hate them,'' Williams said jokingly. ''I don't know why we play like that early in the game. I told them that we will have to play a scrimmage game first, and then our real games.
''The girls know that this won't keep working for us. Hopefully they understand that, but we've got to fix this.
''Sure, a win is a win and I'll take it. But that wasn't Martins Ferry softball, and it hasn't been.''
With the score knotted at 2-2, Martins Ferry sent a dozen batters to the plate in the top of the eighth, with seven of them scoring. Six of those batters recorded base hits and three others reached via a trio of Bellaire fielding miscues. Of the seven runs that crossed the plate, four were earned.
Two of them came home on Brooklyn Monroe's double to deep right. Addie Suriano singled in another and Katie Webb's groundout produced another.
''There's no doubt that we gave them the game. No doubt in my mind, or the girls in that dugout,'' Bellaire's Melissa Lahna said, pointing toward her team. ''We played well enough to win. They didn't beat us ... we played well enough to win.''
Bellaire jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to five Purple Riders errors in the first inning, but the Big Reds could've, and probably should've had more runs.
''Fortunate wasn't the word I had in mind; it was more of disbelief,'' Williams said of her thoughts after that dreadful first inning.
Katie Fry led off the bottom of the first with a double to left. Taylar Canter sacrificed, but the throw to first was off the mark as Fry scooted around the bases and Canter went to third on the second miscue. Sarah Marlin's grounder to short resulted in Kylie Stalder making a perfect peg to catcher Krissy Hotlosz, who tagged out the sliding Canter on a bang-bang play, and then alertly got to her feet and caught Marlin in a rundown between first and second to complete the odd double play.
Casey Garloch smacked a single to center and advanced to second on an error. She scored on another error.
Martins Ferry was held hitless until two outs in the fifth when Stalder singled to right. Beth Hotlosz followed with a drive to deep center that resulted in an RBI double, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The Purple Riders drew even in the seventh when Cassie Hanson grounded a leadoff single up the middle. She was sacrificed to second and went to third on an infield error. After the second out was recorded, Hotlosz came through again with an infield single that plated Hanson with the tying run and set the stage for another Purple Riders moment.
Suriano led the Purple Riders' 11-hit attack with two singles and a double. Hotlosz had a pair of singles and two RBI, while Cirstie Delguzzo and Stalder each singled twice.
Delguzzo struck out six and didn't walk a batter in scattering nine hits. She worked her way out of jam after jam as Bellaire stranded eight runners.
Megan Ging was sailing along, having faced one batter more the minimum through four. However, her defense let her down late in the game. She finished with five strikeouts and a walk.
Garloch had one-third of the Big Reds' nine hits. She cracked two doubles and a single. Ging doubled twice, while Canter singled twice.