CHILLICOTHE — Tournament games have a certain way of creating unforgettable moments in high school careers.
Two of those moments happened Thursday at Unioto in a Division III district semifinal between Wellston and Leesburg Fairfield.
Jenna Johnston became a hero and showed her clutch gene for Wellston. But in the end, it wasn't enough as Fairfield's Ashley Sanderson delivered the biggest hit of the night to end Wellston's 2019 season with a 4-3 loss in eight innings.
"These girls played an awesome game and I couldn't be more proud of them," Wellston coach Jim Hall said. "Despite playing against one of the best pitchers we've seen, our hitting was really good and our defense played very well. But we had a couple miscues and came up short in the end."
Wellston scored a run in each of the first two innings; a passed ball that scored Sadie Henry and an RBI single from Erica Scott for a 2-0 lead.
From that point until the sixth inning, Wellston was stingy defensive as Ashley Compston continued to dazzle inside the circle.
Although the Lions put up a run in the fourth on an RBI groundout from Lauren Arnold, it did little to throw off the focus of Compston and company.
They maintained that 2-1 while the defense continued to make plays and Compston recorded strikeouts, seven up to that point before finishing with eight on the night.
"Ashley was unbelievable for us," Hall said. "She's an all-around baller and wherever I put her, I know she'll give 100 percent. This was her night and despite the outcome, I'm happy with how she threw."
Momentum slowly began to shift in the bottom of the sixth with the Lions scratching and trying to pierce through the Rockets' defense.
Following a hit by pitch and a single to put runners on first and second, Kaiti White came through with an RBI double to tie the game 2-2. Layla Hattan followed with an RBI groundout that gave Fairfield a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh.
After the first two Wellston batters suffered outs, it came down to Johnston. She worked the count and on the 3-2 pitch, the freshman sent a laser to left center field into the trees for the game-tying solo home run.
"When you have a good hitting team, anything can happen," Hall said. " 3-2 count, two outs, season on the line and into the trees it goes. She's been a huge part of why we got to this point."
That solo blast led to extra innings, and Fairfield struck in the bottom of the eighth. Following a leadoff walk, the Lions collected three straight singles, the final one by Sanderson, who was 0-for-3 up to that point that sent the Lions to the district championship.
"We kept playing and fought like it was the first inning," Hall said. "That's all you can do and they played hard. It just wasn't meant to be."
Considering everything Wellston accomplished, 2019 will go down as a season to remember.
It won the TVC championship for the first time since 2014, won a sectional title and appeared in district action for the sixth time this decade.
"These girls showed a lot of heart and passion for the game," Hall said. "They did everything together as a team, win or lose, and that's what I'm proud of. They stayed with one another."
Although it brings back five starters next season, including Johnston, the Rockets say goodbye to six seniors: Compston, Molly Smith, Erica Scott, Kendra Coleman, Emily Kisor and Mya Bouska.
"I've known all of them for a while, but I've only had them for two years as the coach," Hall said. "They've played together since fifth grade and kept at it over the years. It's my hope that the younger girls show how the senior did things and follow that lead. Those seniors are a great group of girls."