AMHERST – The game came down to the final pitch, and really, Bill Dod wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
When Bryce Reagan slapped single to score Seth Learned in the bottom of the seventh inning last Thursday, breaking a 4-4 tie with John Stark, it gave the Souhegan High School baseball team a much needed victory for the 2015 season.
But it also gave Dod, the only coach the Sabers’ program has ever known, a milestone.
The win was the 500th of Dod’s long career, which began during the 1968-69 school year at Sanborn of Kingston, and has also included stops at Bishop Guertin and Milford.
“It would have been pretty boring if we would have won 10-0,” Dod said of the win. “We’ve always talked about those close games, an exciting game, and those are what I think most of my games have been. Both teams fighting hard and giving everything they have. It’s great that it ended up this way.”
Dod is just the third baseball coach in New Hampshire history, joining former Kennett coach Bob Burns and current Plymouth coach Tom Underwood, who holds the record with 515.
“Coming up in this town, you always hear about Coach Dod,” said Learned, a senior who has played varsity since his freshman year. “Everyone knows him. I knew he had it coming. He’s got all types of milestones as a coach. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.”
For Reagan, a freshman, getting his first walkoff hit in such a situation was unbelievable.
“I had no idea until before this game,” he said. “It makes it more special. I was looking for the first fastball, middle in, and that’s what he threw. I just jumped on it.”
After the game, Dod spoke with the players and their parents, and thanked them for their support over the years.
“There are a lot of kids over that period of time,” he said. “A lot of really outstanding players and some kids that had a great role on a team. Some of those kids who didn’t play a lot, they were a very important part of the program. I’ve had some really talented players who got as far as Triple-A.
“This is a pretty good microcosm of my coaching because we’ve got some good seniors who are role models for the program, and have been leaders. And then there are juniors and sophomores, and this year, for the last few games, we’ve started three freshmen in the lineup. There’s a lot of players contributing.
“I never thought (while at Sanborn) that in 2015 I’d still be doing this, which I’m not sure I’d want to be doing anything else.”