Over the past decade, the Wheelersburg High School baseball and softball programs have emerged as one Ohio’s premier programs. Earlier this week, Wheelersburg Little League proved that its state-wide dominance extends to all age levels.
The Wheelersburg 9- and 10-year-old softball team defeated Tallmadge 5-2 on Wednesday to claim a Little League State Softball Championship. The team — which consisted of 14 All-Stars from the Wheelersburg softball league — went 9-1 over the span over two tournaments.
After league coaches selected players for the team, the Wheelersburg girls rolled through the District 11 Tournament in Ironton, winning all five games in a double-elimination tournament. The tournament win earned them a spot in the State Tournament, which began Aug. 1 in Tallmadge, Ohio near Akron.
In the week leading up to the state tournament, the Wheelersburg girls practiced regularly as a team, and even received instruction from high school softball coach Teresa Ruby, who led the Lady Pirates all the way to the state semifinals this season.
“She’s involved, she knows all these girls from Little League all the way up,” Wheelersburg Little League coach Dusty Salyers said.
While the girls prepared for their week in the spotlight, the Wheelersburg community stepped up to help make the long trip to the tournament possible. Thanks to fund-raising, the team was able to raise enough money for hotel rooms and meals for the five-day trip.
“I can’t say enough about the Wheelersburg community and how they supported us financially. We raised a lot of money,” Salyers said.
The girls’ championship hopes took a hit in the first round of the double-elimination tournament, as Wheelersburg fell to Tallmadge 7-0 in the first round. But after the loss, the girls responded by winning their next two games by a combined 20-1 to set up a rematch with the home team.
On Tuesday evening, Wheelersburg scored the first six runs to beat Tallmadge 6-3 and force a winner-take-all championship game on Wednesday. Just as they had the night before, Wheelersburg jumped out to an early lead and survived a late comeback and clinched the state title with a 5-2 win.
In the Little League 9- and 10-year-old age group, the state tournament marks the highest level of competition. If the Wheelersburg girls can notch another state championship when they reunite as 11- and 12-year-olds, they’ll advance to the Regional Tournament with a chance to move on to Williamsport, Penn. for the Little League World Series.
“You can’t say enough about the Wheelersburg community and how they support their student athletes. It’s just amazing and overwhelming,” Salyers said.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter