AVON LAKE — With seven freshmen and two sophomores making up Wellington’s lineup, many are probably wondering how good the team might be in two or three years.
The Dukes are pretty excited about what they are doing right now.
The young squad scored early and often and Payton Regal put together one of her most complete performances of the season as Wellington rolled to a 9-3 victory over Elyria Catholic in a Division III district semifinal Wednesday night.
“They’re players,” Dukes coach Duane Sunagel said. “They aren’t freshmen that are inexperienced and haven’t played much softball, but they’ve got some softball in their past. The people that got them to us did a great job and we just try to improve upon that.”
Regal took a perfect game into the fourth inning before Elyria Catholic’s Annika Bredel hit a two-out double to center field. Regal finished with four 1-2-3 innings.
“I was throwing in and out, trying to make them miss, throwing way outside, trying to make them swing,” Regal said. “I knew that I had my teammates to back me up, so I knew that we were good.”
When Regal took off her glove and picked up her bat, the Panthers were really in trouble.
The sophomore went 4-for-5 with a triple, a double, an RBI and three runs scored.
“She had a day. She was our leader today,” Sunagel said. “She did a great job in that circle, and with the timely hits … she did it all.
“Coach Roger Wright does a great job of calling our pitches for us and she put them where she needed to, and when we had to play some defense, we did.”
Kendal Brasee, the other Dukes sophomore, went 2-for-2 — both doubles — with an RBI, while the top freshman hitters were Teddi Hardoby, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored, and Kennedi Benko, who hit a back-breaking three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning.
“We got a lot of gap hits tonight, we moved the runners along and scored them that way,” Sunagel said. “Kennedi Benko hit the ball hard every time up and finally put one over.”
Elyria Catholic finally got things going after Bredel’s double. Stephanie Griffin drove her home to get the Panthers on the scoreboard, then EC scored two more in the sixth on a Bredel sacrifice fly and a Griffin infield single.
But grinding out runs in an effort to erase a huge deficit wasn’t exactly how Panthers coach Megan Bashak had imagined the postseason matchup going, especially since EC had dominated Wellington in the teams’ season opener and because of the youthful lineup her team was facing.
“I was surprised but at the same time their coach is a great coach and he can do things with ballplayers, it doesn’t matter what age or what grade,” Bashak said. “It might be rough at the beginning of the season but by the end he’s got them where he wants them and where they should be.
“I don’t know what it was today but we just couldn’t get solid contact until the end and that hurt. It hurt bad. We could’ve — should’ve — put up a fight if we could hit, but we just did not.”
The upset win — Wellington was the No. 3 seed and EC was No. 2 — sets up a rematch of last year’s district final in which the Dukes lost to top-seeded Independence. The teams will square off today at 3:30 at Avon Lake High.
Bashak is hoping there won’t be a trilogy.
“It’s nice to see what we have coming in, too, that will fill the spots that we’re losing,” she said. “It’ll be nice and exciting, kind of like a Round 2. See you next year.”