WELLINGTON — With a week off between the end of the regular season and the start of tournament play, Wellington VFW Post 6941 could have been excused for being a little rusty heading into the opening round of the Ohio Hot Stove Class C (age 13-14) state tournament.
But a third-inning leadoff single by Lexie Kline and the pitching of Abbie Hunter was all Wellington needed to work its way back into midseason form as it went on to defeat Cloverleaf 7-4 at Wellington Recreation Park.
Kline singled to lead off the third inning for Wellington (11-3), then Riley West, Jenna Pasadyn and Hunter followed with walks, and before the inning was over Wellington had a 3-0 lead that it never relinquished.
“Normally I don’t like to start off an inning because I feel nervous I’m going to strike out,” Kline said. “When I get on base it feels really good to know I got the hit to start the inning going. It makes me happy to pump up my team for the inning, I like it when my team is happy with the things that I do.”
After Cloverleaf scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, Kline worked her magic again in the fourth inning with another leadoff single that started a two-run rally.
Hunter was dominant in the pitcher’s circle, striking out seven to help Wellington advance to the winners bracket semifinal, where it will face North Ridgeville Syngery, a 16-0 winner over Midview Nancy’s Diner, tonight at 8:30.
“I think I pitched pretty good, I know my change-ups could have been better but I am working on that,” said Hunter, who pitched just her second complete game of the season. “I really didn’t get tired. I had my teammates to cheer me on, so I was OK. I really enjoy this team. We work well together and we practice together, so that’s why we do well.”
Cloverleaf shortstop Tori Smith drove in a pair of runs with a seventh-inning single, but Hunter struck out Paige McMaster to end the game.
“We played awesome,” Wellington coach Brittney Wallace said. “There were a couple of in-the-head errors but that happens in every game. I was really proud of the girls tonight.”
In other Class C games Clearview Xplosion routed Buckeye Sullivan 20-4 and Buckeye MTD defeated Oberlin 11-4.
Forfeits were the story of the day in Class D (age 15-18) as North Ridgeville and Black River advanced to the quarterfinals without taking the field.
The Amherst Lightning was the only Class D team to win between the white lines, sending Wellington to the losers bracket by a score of 14-1.
Amherst (4-7) appears to be peaking at the right time, having won four of its last five games and scoring 10 or more runs in each of those wins.
“We had our strongest lineup in there tonight,” coach Lindsey Costello said. “We’ve got a lot of young players. I’ve got two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old playing up at 18U, so this effort was really phenomenal.”
One of the 13-year-olds, pitcher Payton Tackett, looked like a seasoned veteran. She tossed a three-hitter, striking out six in five innings. The only run she allowed was unearned.
“Payton is amazing,” Costello said. “She’s not the fastest pitcher ever but she spins the ball so well. She has six different pitches at 13 years old. She can locate like a pin drop, so that really helps.”
Tackett seems unfazed by the prospect of facing batters five years her senior.
“I’ve always liked playing hard and competing. I love this sport and I have friends from travel ball on my team with me, so I’m just relaxed and happy being out here with them,” Tackett said.
Third baseman Sierra Baker scored three runs for Amherst, which will face top-seeded South Amherst tonight at 8:30.
“We just got pumped up and kept going at it,” Baker said. “This was one of our best offensive games of the year tonight. We were really focused.”
Class A (age 9-10)
Midview Reaser Construction 22, Keystone Senghas Construction 2
Class C (age 13-14)
Wellington VFW Post 6941 7, Cloverleaf 4
Buckeye MTD 11, Oberlin 4
Clearview Xplosion 20, Buckeye Sullivan 4
North Ridgeville Synergy 16, Midview Nancy’s Diner 0
Class D (age 15-18)
Amherst Lightning 14, Wellington 1