WELLSTON — Capturing the TVC championship for the first time since 2014 was nice, but Wellston wanted more titles.
Deadlocked in a scoreless game with Oak Hill, the Rockets remained patient and waited for the first major crack in the Oaks' armor to show.
Once that crack showed in the sixth inning, the Rockets broke through and captured a 3-0 victory on Friday, claiming their first Division III sectional title since 2015.
"It's hard to beat a team twice, and we knew Oak Hill was going to bring their best game possible," Wellston coach Jim Hall said. "They have really good pitching, solid catching, fielding and they can hit. We just had all of those elements a little bit better this time around."
Getting it done
Offensively through five innings, Wellston had given itself more chances to score than Oak Hill did.
The Rockets had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the second, and in the bottom of the fourth with no outs. And both times resulted in a goose egg on the scoreboard.
"I thought we played very well and disciplined," Oak Hill coach Renea Butts said. "Excellent defense, hitting, pitching, it was all coming together. It was coming down to who was going to make that first error and capitalize."
And how right she was. Only problem was that it was Oak Hill who made it. A fielding error put the leadoff batter on base in the bottom of the sixth that started the snowball effect.
After a single put runners on first and second, Molly Smith came to the dish and delivered with an RBI single to put Wellston ahead 1-0.
"She puts in all of the extra work and is committed to the game," Hall said. "If I had 10 players like her with her work ethic, I'd be over the moon. She's a great kid and I'm happy she got that moment."
Erica Scott followed two batters later with an RBI single before Braley Rainer delivered an RBI double that pushed the lead to 3-0 for the win.
"Even in that final at-bat, we still gave ourselves a chance," Butts said. "We were in the same situation against Chesapeake and came through. It just didn't work out for us this time."
Smith didn't just come through with the RBI single, she was pure dynamite in the circle.
Although she wasn't blowing pitches by the batters, she kept the ball low and allowed her defense to make plays behind her. That resulted in her throwing four shutout innings, allowing just four hits.
"We have a older group of kids who have been through the battles over the years," Hall said. "They've taken their bumps and the mentality has changed. There was a time we used to commit 7-8 errors a game, now it's 1-2 and those errors haven't come back to bite us so far."
Ashley Compston took over in the fifth, and it was much of the same. The Oaks were swinging away, but most hits amounted to nothing but pop flies and groundouts.
Compston brought the Rockets home by tossing three scoreless innings and giving up just four hits.
"That was our gameplan all along from a pitching viewpoint," Hall said. "I planned to change pitchers midway through the game and force Oak Hill to catch up to a different speed. Although they still managed a few hits, I think that change is what allowed us to be successful."
For a young Oak Hill team, among the many positives it can take away from the season, it showed true character and grit.
The Chesapeake game is the perfect example. Being down 2-1 in the sixth and pulling out a 3-2 victory shows the intangibles this team built.
"They worked together extremely well all season and continued to push through," Butts said. "We're only getting better and we couldn't have played a better overall game than we did in this one. I'm beyond proud of the girls."
The Oaks return a fully loaded team next season aside from one senior in Baleigh McNerlin.
"She's a leader by example and such a great kid," Butts said. "She gives a 100 percent in everything she does. She started as a freshman in center field and has been a staple for us ever since. Few players work harder than she does and great things will happen for her."
Wellston advances to a Division III district semifinal on Thursday against Fairfield at Unioto High School.
"We're going to work on hitting between now and Thursday," Hall said. "From what I understand, we're playing a team who has some faster pitching, which probably works to our advantage since we hit pitchers with speed similar to Adkins and we'll et the results play out."