that no softball team from Wellington has ever done. They will be
playing in a Division III state semifinal game as the 24-4 Lady Dukes
take on a West Liberty-Salem (31-1) juggernaut at Akron’s Firestone
Stadium. The Dukes join the state's No. 1, 2 and 3 ranked D-III teams in Akron.
“We’re a pretty solid team,” said Roth, who owns 345 career wins. “We have good pitching and we have six seniors on the team that help to lead us.”
One of those leaders is Melanie Conklin, a pitcher with a 0.94 earned run average. In the regional final against Manchester, she pitched a one-hitter in a dazzling 5-0 shutout.
“Yeah, we’re pitching her on Thursday,” Roth said. “She’ll be out there and hopefully, the defense will be as strong as it’s been all year. Just like most games at the state level, it will probably be the first team to make a mistake that loses.”
Roth believes this will open a door for more Dukes teams in the future.
“It’s just like the time our wrestlers finally got to the state tournament,” Roth said. “All the kids realized, ‘Hey it doesn’t matter that we’re from Wellington. We can do it, too.’”
Of Wellington’s four losses on the season, Roth explained that those were to some pretty good teams.
“We lost two to Keystone and they’re terrific every year,” said Roth, with three district titles on his resume. “We lost one to Elyria (27-1) and once in conference.”
Part of the excitement for Roth and his team is that the girls are getting some publicity that seldom happens when compared to high school boys’ athletics.
“The other night when we came back, we got the parade through town with the police and the fire trucks and I think we had about 30 cars trailing behind us on the drive through town,” Roth said. “It’s great to see the team get noticed like this.”
Based on records alone, Wellington has to be considered the underdog in the softball final four. Aside from No. 2 ranked West Liberty-Salem, the potential opponents for Wellington are No. 3 ranked Bloomdale Elwood (29-1) and top ranked Hebron Lakewood (30-2). In fact, in the final state rankings, only Wellington was unranked of the final four teams. Roth believes that publicity will show up well in Akron for the 3 p.m. start and help the underdogs.
“Well, tomorrow (Wednesday) is our last day of school so we’ll have all the students that can come out,” said the coach. “We had a good showing at the last game and I think that there are going to be a lot of people coming out for this one. I hope so.”
Wellington may need that support as a website covering West Liberty-Salem shows a poll asking if people plan on attending the semi-final game. Of 118 responses to the poll, 107 checked the “yes” box and plan to attend.
West Liberty-Salem will likely throw ace Emily Kauffman to the mound on Thursday. The honorable mention all-state player is one that Roth thinks his players will need to work hard to overcome. Another will be Abbey Ledford. Just a sophomore, Ledford plays at all-state levels on the infield at shortstop.
Roth needs to coach his team to two more wins this season to earn the state championship. That would put him at 347 wins in his 22 years at Wellington; good enough for 13th all-time in softball wins in the state of Ohio. Roth had no idea he was that high on the list.
“Really?” questioned Roth. “I thought it just meant I was around for a long time. I didn’t know. They made a big deal about it when I got number 300 a while back. I imagine that I’ll sit down at the end and have a better appreciation for it.”
Maybe that No. 13 will be lucky for the Lady Dukes.