Tom Artino is the Columbian softball coach. His daughter Bessie is a graduate assistant with Heidelberg's program. Yet it was the elder Artino who did a bit of recruiting for the Student Princes Thursday. He was getting an up-close look at some top-flight talent when Sandusky came to town.
The Blue Streaks pounded out 13 hits in an 11-1 five-inning victory over the host Tornadoes.
One more than one occasion Artino mentioned to Sandusky coach Tom Garard how nice a couple of his players would look in orange and black next year, joining his daughter's program.
Columbian?third baseman Mercedes Omlor readies to catch a fly ball during Thursday’s game with Sandusky in Tiffin.
Columbian shortstop Brittany?DuMonte makes a stop on a hard hit ball during Thursday’s game against?Sandusky in Tiffin.
"She had her eye on a couple players," Artino said. "Tom's got a nice program over there."
At the top of that list is Sandusky shortstop Kelsey Peters and center fielder Bailey Smith.
According to Garard, there's been mutual interest between Smith and Heidelberg. Peters, though, has drawn interest from Akron, Michigan and Alabama. But there's no telling where people might end up.
"Kelsey and Bailey are best friends, so you never know what's going to happen. They might go together. Who knows," Garard said.
The duo played a big role in Sandusky's win Thursday.
Smith, Sandusky's leadoff hitter, had a 3-for-4 afternoon with two RBIs and three runs. Peters also went 3 for 4 and drove in four runs. It might have been a perfect day for her at the plate, if it wasn't for a terrific stop by Columbian third baseman Mercedes Omlor on a sharply hit ground ball.
That was just one of a few defensive gems for Columbian. Omlor and shortstop Brittany DuMonte each made several nice stops on hard hit balls from Blue Streak batters.
"Our third baseman played well," Artino said when asked about the day's bright spots. "It's a new position for her. She was out almost 95 percent of the season last year with a broken nose, bad knee. She's learning the position. Our shortstop is getting better; she made some really nice plays, too."
Garard mentioned after the game he feels Artino's pain with a young team going through a rebuilding process, but Omlor and DuMonte both stood out to him as well.
"(Artino's) in that rebuilding year. And, I've been there," Garard said. "But I'll tell you what, he's got some infielders. That third baseman he's got and the shortstop, they dug some balls out. But we hit the ball hard, they made some plays. But I think it just came down to experience. We had a little bit more than they did."
While Smith and Peters paced Sandusky on the day, they were far from the only Blue Streaks to swing a hot bat. Madison Hayberger went 3 for 3 with an RBI and three runs. Kayla Hodgkinson reached base three of the four times she came to the plate and had a two-run single. Caitlyn Willinger also doubled home a run.
"We've been hitting about 14 hits a game," Garard said. "We swing the bats pretty well. I got them doing a two-strike hit where I got them choking up on the bat, opening up their stance a little bit better. That seems to be cutting down the strikeouts. So were moving the ball and we've done that every game."
Artino also complimented the Sandusky mentor on his lineup.
"What Tom does nice, he's got his order set up for his small ball, then he gets his big guns up, and they don't miss. When they're swinging, they usually don't miss," Artino said. "When you dig a hole like that against a team like that, it's an upward battle. First couple innings, a couple runs, a couple runs. We didn't come right back with some runs. It makes it tough."
Hayberger also picked up the win in the circle, throwing the first three innings and allowing just a pair of base hits, one by DuMonte and one by Roni Daughenbaugh.
Sandusky jumped out to a 9-0 lead after three innings. Columbian got one back in the fourth when Sam Gaietto and Autumn Taylor each drew two-out walks. Sierra Shope came in as a courtesy runner and scored of Hannah Hupp's RBI single.
Sandusky, though, plated two more in the fifth and shut down TC in the bottom of the frame to end the game.
Sandusky improves to 5-4, 1-1 Northern Ohio League while Columbian falls to 1-6, 0-3.
Artino says he believes there's still time for his players to step up and turn the season around.
"I'm trying to lean on our upperclassmen a little bit. Hopefully they'll take it to heart and change this thing around," Artino said. "The season's early. We got a young season. I just want to get better each game and get rolling for the tournament. When the tournament rolls around I want to be ready. You never know what's going to happen in the tournament."