ZANESVILLE - Do you believe in miracles?
If you're connected to the Harrison Central baseball program, you might want to start.
The 'Cinderella' Huskies (23-6) are headed to the Division II Final Four, courtesy of, all things, a balk-off.
The Harrison Central Huskies proudly hoist the Division II, Region 7 Championship Trophy after coming back from six runs down to stun Waverly, 8-7, at Gant Municipal Stadium in Zanesville.
Huskies’ freshman Kalub Mitchell celebrates with the Huskies’ flag after the Huskies’ win in the regional championship game. Harrison Central will play Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Division II?State Tournament in Columbus.
HARRISON CENTRAL head coach Justin Clifford celebrates with Ian Saho after the Huskies won the Division II?regional title Friday afternoon.
HARRISON CENTRAL’S Rashaen Mitchell is tagged out as he goes into the air to avoid Waverly catcher Elliott Newton during the sixth inning.
Waverly reliever Adam Tiu balked home pinch-runner Ryan Rose with the winning run as Harrison Central captured the Region 7 championship, 8-7, in dramatic fashion at Gant Municipal Stadium.
The come-from-behind victory propels the Blue-and-White to Huntington Park in Columbus on Thursday at 4 p.m. in state semifinal action. The opponent will be either Plain City Jonathan Alder (22-8) or Tipp City Tippecanoe (28-4). They meet today at 7 p.m. in Xenia.
"I tell you what. These kids never quit. They battle," second-year head coach Justin Clifford said of his Huskies. "We were down 7-1 and they (Waverly) bring in their ace. We just battled, battled and battled.
"I'm at a loss for words right now. This is amazing!"
On the short end of a 7-6 count and down to their last three outs, the Huskies used a lead-off double to the fence in left by junior catcher Nick Staten. Senior Rhett Kuryn quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole, but he didn't panic. Instead, he lined the next offering from Pierce Knisley to the gap in left-center as Staten scored to tie the game.
"I was just sitting back waiting on a fastball," he explained of the at-bat. "That's the biggest hit of my career."
Rose took over for Kuryn at second and went to third on Austin Kowalski's solid single to right.
After a pitching change, Tiu, before even delivering a pitch to the plate, faked a throw to first without stepping off the rubber that resulted in the very strange ending.
"It shocked me a little bit," admitted Clifford, who seemed to call the balk before the home plate umpire made his final gesture. "You want to feel sorry for the kid, but we'll take it, I guess."
Thanks to some sloppy play by Harrison Central (four errors), the Tigers (23-8) broke out to a 3-0 lead before the Huskies even came to bat. The margin eventually ballooned to 7-1 after 3 innings before Harrison Central used some small-ball to plate a run in the bottom of the fourth, making it 7-2.
Freshman Dustin Redish, who plays a lot older than his age of 15, slapped a single to center leading off the fifth. Rashaen Mitchell, the Huskies' do-everything, legged out an infield single to the right side. With one out, Drew Horn drilled a shot to the hole at short that was thrown wildly to first as Redish scored to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Waverly head coach Jeff Noble elected to bring on Knisley, the Tigers' ace who tossed more than 100 pitches Thursday in the semifinal win over West Holmes. The strategy backfired as the Huskies teed off on the righthander.
Pinch-hitter Giovanni Rocchi, who hadn't had 10 at-bats all season, chopped a ball to third that was kicked around as Mitchell crossed to make it 7-4.
Waverly threatened to extend its margin in the sixth, but Mitchell, who threw 119 pitches in Thursday's 3-0 shutout of Vincent Warren, came on in relief of Redish with runners on second and third with one out and the count 1-0 on the batter.
The Huskies' ace eventually struck out the batter that he inherited on a 3-2 pitch before getting the final out on a fly to left.
With the momentum still on its side, Harrison Central fed off of it. Kalub Mitchell, the No. 9 hitter, ignited a two-run sixth that closed the gap to 7-6 with a leadoff single to right. He was promptly sacrificed to second by Dalton Rutter. Redish beat out an infield single to keep the rally going, and Rashaen Mitchell's seeing-eye base hit through the right side drove in his younger brother. Mitchell then stole second with two outs. Horn's single up the middle plated Redish for a 7-6 reading, but Mitchell was thrown out at the plate on a rifle by Corey Johnson, who started on the hill for the Tigers.
Waverly got the leadoff batter on base via a walk, and a pinch-runner was inserted. A sacrifice bunt attempt was popped up to the charging Horn at third, who quickly pegged a strike to Nick Pelegreen at first to complete the Huskies' second twin killing of the game. Mitchell then fanned the next hitter to set the stage for another cardiac comeback.
"This is crazy. I don't even know what to say right now," Rashaen Mitchell, who improved to 10-1, allowed. He also singled three times and drove in two runs.
"My arm was killing me today, but I just had to go out there and do what I do best ... throw strikes," the lanky lefty added. "I just went out there and threw it as hard as I could and hoped it went over the plate."
All but one Huskie hitter recorded a safety as they totalled a baker's dozen, with Kuryn adding a single to his double. Horn had two base knocks.
Waverly 302 200 0 - 7 9 4
Harrison 100 122 2 - 8 13 4
Batteries: Johnson, Knisley (4), Tiu (7) and E. Newton. Pelegreen, Redish (3), R. Mitchell (6) and Staten
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