WELLINGTON — The closest someone came to ending Sydney Campbell’s perfect game Tuesday night was when Keystone coach Jim Piazza nearly brought in a relief pitcher to begin the sixth inning.
Piazza realized the mistake, Campbell trotted back onto the field and set down the last six batters as the Wildcats rolled to an 8-0 victory over Wellington.
Besides being Campbell’s seventh career perfect game — third of the season — it also set the Ohio high school record for consecutive victories at 52.
“That would have been the biggest blunder,” Piazza said. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff during the game. We have our pitching chart and that’s all I focus on. I come back to the dugout and she has this team-player look on her face … and I was like, ‘Oh, no.’”
Campbell had retired 15 straight at that point — including striking out the side in the fifth — and was cruising toward her third perfect game in 12 days.
“I didn’t think he knew I had a perfect game going, so I reminded the other coach,” Campbell said. “I was like, ‘Is he serious?’ I knew we had a lot of games this week so I knew he wanted to rest me a little bit, but I knew he wouldn’t pull me if he knew … so I reminded him.”
Campbell pulled even with Convoy Crestview’s Jamie Perkins — who won 51 straight between 2003-06 — with a 7-0 win over the Dukes in LaGrange on Monday night.
The streak began with nine straight wins to end her sophomore season. She went 29-0 last year as Keystone won the Division II state championship, passing former Wildcats great Kristie Malinkey, who held the school and Lorain County consecutive-wins record with 26.
Campbell doubled that total with Tuesday night’s win.
“I found about the streak yesterday,” Campbell said. “I didn’t realize it was 52 games. It means so much to all of us, and it’s really special for us to wear the Keystone jersey, and to come out here every game and play for Coach P and play for our community is just something you can’t put into words.”
Many factors have gone into the streak — including the backing of an explosive offense and a stalwart defense — but the origin can be traced to Campbell’s freshman season.
“When I threw her in the state championship game when we were getting beat, as a freshman to go out there and hold Hebron Lakewood, which had one of the most powerful hitting offenses we’d ever seen, I said, ‘The rest of your career is going to be easy. This was the hardest thing you’ll ever have to go through in your life,’” Piazza said.
“That’s when I became mentally tough,” Campbell said. “We worked together throughout the last four years to work on our pitches together and just make sure everything’s working to the best it could be. Coach P and I and Autumn (Acord) have all been working together the last three years and it shows.”
Another key to the run has been Acord’s work as Campbell’s battery mate.
“I’ve been catching her since we were like 8 or 9 years old, and it’s just so fun to see how much we’ve both grown,” Acord said. “We’ve always been a really good combo because I’ve known her so long. Catching a pitcher that amazing, it’s an honor, really.
“Her work ethic is amazing and at practice she never takes time off. She makes sure to work on things. Even in games, she’ll go off to the side and make sure her dropball is working. Her movement in every pitch is amazing.”
Campbell uses every inch of the strike zone, changes levels frequently and delivers the ball with varying speeds. Acord said she always hits her spots and she’s not afraid to throw inside if a batter is crowding the plate.
“That impresses me a lot,” Acord said. “She’s always had that swag. She walks out there like, ‘Yeah, I got this.’ She always knows the defense has her back.”
While the pressure of gunning for the Ohio record may be over, Campbell said she’s “not satisfied with 52.” She said the team goal is to continue winning games and keep the streak alive.
Keystone (15-0) has 11 regular-season games remaining — including four at this weekend’s Prebis Memorial — and could have a possible eight postseason matchups. That means the best finish Campbell could achieve would be 71 straight.
That would give her the third-longest winning streak in U.S. history. She’s in ninth place at 52, with Crystal Cox of Concord Central Cabarrus (N.C.) at No. 8 with 54 from 2000-01.
Two players are tied for No. 3 with 66 — Lori Vogel of Quincy Notre Dame (Ill.) and Kate Pouliot of Simpsonville Hillcrest (S.C.) — a number Campbell and the Wildcats could reach.
The nation’s top winning streak is 107, held by Candice Carnahan, who accomplished the run from 1988-91 at Lake Charles Barbe (La.). Michele Broussard of Vandebilt Catholic (La.) is No. 2 with 88 straight.
They are numbers that Campbell and her teammates will continue to chase — as well as the program’s fifth state title — during the rest of the season, but the Wildcats took time Tuesday to celebrate taking down the state record with a perfect game.
“It was just the cherry on top,” she said. “It was a really special day for my entire team because it’s a team effort every game. I knew my teammates wanted it for me and I wanted it for us, so having the perfect game to go with it was amazing.”