Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, May 1 newspaper on Page B1.
WELLSTON — The Rockets have often been so close to clinching the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division softball title, only to come up short in the final conference games.
This year has been different. The Rockets were on a mission to claim the prize that had slipped through their fingers on a number of occasions.
“We had a really good team last year, but just couldn’t win the TVC” Wellston coach Jim Hall said. “So I worked a little extra and worked the girls a little extra during the offseason.”
All that extra work paid off on Monday, April 29 as Wellston earned a 5-2 victory over Athens to claim the school’s first TVC-Ohio title since 2014.
With the win, Wellston improved to 17-3 overall and 11-1 in the TVC-Ohio.
“It means so much to me and the seniors to finally win the league,” Wellston senior Molly Smith said. “We’ve worked so hard for so many years, and to get it in our final year is unreal.”
The previous matchup between these two back on April 10 wasn’t nearly as close, with Wellston enforcing a 20-2 mercy rule victory over the Bulldogs.
This time, Athens was ready to battle until the bitter end.
“Honestly, we underestimated them this time around,” Hall said. “We took them lightly and kept waiting on the inning for them to fall apart and it didn’t happen. They’re a much improved team.”
The Rockets wasted no time striking first as Kendra Coleman laced an RBI single to center field, scoring Jenna Johnston for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the opening frame.
Athens countered with a run in the top of the third, following an RBI single from Olivia Tenoglia to tie the game. But Wellston answered back in the bottom half.
With runners on second and third, Smith came through a two-run double to center field to give her team a 3-1 lead.
“I knew I needed to step up at that moment,” Smith said. “I took the first pitch just to see where the ball was. The next one came and it was a little inside, so I went with it.”
“That was awesome to watch,” Hall said. “Molly is one of those kids who is the first to show up to practice and the last to leave. She’ll put in extra practices and that’s what wins ball games. She brings the extra juice we need and that swing was a perfect example.”
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the fifth after scoring on an error with two outs, but that was all they muster.
Wellston tacked on the final two runs with an RBI single from Sydney Spencer in the fifth and an RBI single from Makenna Kilgour in the sixth for the win.
“Although we had more errors than (Athens) did, we out-hit them,” Hall said. “I’ve got 12 girls that can really play and hit the ball. They’re picky at the plate about which pitches to swing at, which is good and they play together really well.”
Compston in command
Behind every good softball team is a great pitcher who does her job masterfully and keeps the opposition in check.
Unfortunately for Athens, Wellston has Ashley Compston in the circle who did exactly as she needed — and then some.
While she faced some tough situations in key moments — such as runners on first and second in the second, and later in the sixth with the bases loaded — the senior hurler notched a strikeout in both moments to end the threats.
“Each inning my mentality was the exact same: get three outs,” Compston said. “Even in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, we kept out composure knowing that getting an out would change the outlook of the game. We truly came together as a team this year.”
Compston earned the win and tossed a complete game, allowing just six hits and striking out six batters for the Rockets.
At the dish, she finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and two runs scored.
“She’s the team captain and knows how to step up when the pressure is on,” Hall said of his standout pitcher. “I’m sure the errors we had aggravated her, but honestly, I think it made her pitch harder. She always has things under control and if necessary, she had broad shoulders to carry us.”
Following Compston, Smith finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Rockets.
Spencer went 2-for-3 with an RBI, Coleman was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Kilgour collected a hit and an RBI.