Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, May 29 newspaper on Page B1.
CHILLICOTHE — While the stage wasn't too big for Wellston, Minford's bats were too hot to handle.
The Falcons pounded out 11 hits, including six of them in a massive third inning and ended Wellston's first district appearance since 2010 with a 12-2 final in a Division II district semifinal on Thursday at V.A. Memorial Stadium.
"I knew it was going to be a tough one," Wellston coach Morgan Stevens said. "Minford is a really good team, and good in every single aspect of the game. We started out really hot and got some momentum going, but we had too many walks. Against a team like them, those mistakes come back and get you. But I'm proud of how our guys competed all the way through."
Wellston took full advantage of batting first and ripped three straight hits to open the game, the final hit being an RBI single from Chase Ingalls for a 1-0 lead.
Not to be outdone though, Minford responded in the form of Elijah Vogelsong inside-the-park home run to give the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
"We told our outfielders that they had to take good angles to the ball," Stevens said. "There's no grass at the VA to stop it, so when it rolls, it's going to keep rolling until you stop it."
That was just the start of a long night for the Rockets.
After the Falcons tallied another run on a passed ball, Darius Jordan launched a sacrifice fly to left field that pushed Minford's lead to 4-1 in the second.
But the Falcons were just getting their bats warmed up.
Matthew Risner joined the fun by lacing a 2-run double to left field, and later scored on a passed ball for a 7-1 lead.
Brayden Davis comes up two batters later and hit an RBI groundout, followed by an RBI single from Darius Jordan extending the score to 9-1.
"From the leadoff batter to the 9-hole, Minford can really hit the ball," Stevens said. "Not only that, they're fast on the base paths. Every guy is a tough out. Not just because of where they hit it, they foul pitches off left and right and make you work even harder for an out."
The hits continued coming as Jordan scored on another passed ball, then Ethan Lauder smacked an RBI single. He later added another RBI single in the bottom of the fourth to add an insurance run.
That insurance turned out to be needed as Ingalls notched an RBI groundout in the top of the fifth. But that's all the Rockets could generate as their season came to a close.
"Minford only out hit us by four for the game," Stevens said. "The biggest difference was we gave up too many walks and that's when most of their hits came. It's easy to put up runs after walks. We competed hard, but it just wasn't enough."
Despite the final game turning into a one-sided affair, Wellston can look back on this season as sort of a turning point in the program.
It finished the season with a winning record at 14-12, claimed its second sectional championship of the decade and got that taste of what it takes to compete inside of district action.
"We came ready to play every day and gave our best effort," Stevens said. "We had some setbacks this season, but it never stopped us and I'm proud of every kid on this team. They never cheated us with their effort whether in practice or in a game."
Wellston moves forward next season without two seniors in Nate Frisby and Cole Broaddus.
"Those two have never been a part of a losing season," Stevens said. "I told them that years down the road they can look back on their last season and realize what you accomplished. They're great teammates and good characters kids that any coach would want in their dugout. We'll miss them for sure."
The good news extends for the Rockets as it brings back 11 of its 13 players for next season, including Ingalls, Timothy Stanley and Hunter Cardwell.
And best believe that they already have lofty goals set for themselves.
"Coming off of a season like this, getting back to the VA is easily one of our goals," Stevens said. "But just getting here isn't enough, we want to be competitive and win a couple games."