History and dominance. There’s no other way to describe what the Wheelersburg Little League 11-12 year old softball team was able to accomplish this season.
It took an incredible amount of hard work, effort, and determination to have the opportunity to play on the highest stage for a team their age. The girls from Wheelersburg did not disappoint when they reached the top of the mountain. Instead, they shined like the brightest star on the biggest stage imaginable.
On Wednesday night, the Wheelersburg LL softball team won the 2018 Little League Softball World Series championship game over Tunkhannock LL (PA) in a 3-0 shutout victory. For the third straight game in as many days, ace pitcher AndiJo Howard was dominant on the mound. Howard finished Wednesday night’s championship game with a complete game shutout victory, seven strikeouts, and only three hits allowed. Howard did not walk a single batter in the game.
“Once again, AndiJo (Howard) was great” said Wheelersburg LL softball head coach Dusty Salyers, “You will only go as far as your pitching will take you. We went all the way, so we must have the best.”
From the outset, it appeared that the final game of the week long event would be a pitcher’s duel. Wheelersburg, who is known for their deadly combination of offensive consistency and two ace pitchers, knew that if they could just score a couple of runs, that it might be the difference in a win or a loss with Howard on the mound.
This proved to be correct, as in the end Wheelersburg scored three runs in route to their victory, when only a single run would have sealed the deal. These runs came as a result of an Emma Smith RBI, and excellent base running from Maddi Kotcamp and Sydney Skiver that allowed them to score thanks to a total of three errors committed by the team representing Pennsylvania. Wheelersburg recorded four hits as a team, two each by Haley Myers and Maddi Kotcamp. AndiJo Howard drew the team’s only walk in the 3-0 victory. Burg outscored their opponents 125-19 over the course of eighteen games, going an impeccable 16-2 in those games.
It is an understatement to say that these girls performed when it mattered most. They not only performed, they stepped up to each task ahead of them and in the end came out on top. “I don’t think it has really sunk in yet” said Salyers when discussing the feeling of being crowned world champions, “I think it will when we get back to Wheelersburg and see all of our friends and family waiting on us. Right now, all of the kids are just really excited.”
On Thursday night, fans and family members of the team met at the Pike Co./Scioto Co. line at a rest area and lead a caravan to Wheelersburg welcoming back the girls and celebrating their championship. The caravan lead the team to the Gene Bennett Baseball Park, where hundreds of fans and family members were waiting and cheering. Bennett, who was a long time scout for the Cincinnati Reds and whose name is memorialized on the little league fields, passed away a year ago to the date of the Wheelersburg championship game.
Salyers had a few words for any girl who was watching Wednesday night’s championship game, dreaming of one day to be in their shoes, “I would tell any little girl that dreams come true. Little League is awesome! It will teach the value of teamwork and most of all community and pride! Those are things that travel ball don’t offer.”
The Wheelersburg LL softball team became the first team from the state of Ohio to win the Little League World Series, baseball or softball.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @JacobSmithPDT