COLUMBUS - It's been said time and time again that all good things have to come to an end eventually.
In Ohio, only four high school baseball teams will finish their seasons on a winning note.
With that said, congratulations go out to the Harrison Central Huskies. The squad has nothing to be ashamed about following its 11-1 loss to Plain City Jonathan Alder Friday morning at Huntington Park in the downtown capital city.
HARRISON CENTRAL’S Austin Kowalski, left, is congratulated by head coach Justin Clifford after making a tremendous defensive play Friday morning.
Despite their solid start to the campaign with nine straight wins, nobody, not even the Huskies themselves, had visions of playing in Columbus on Friday.
Heck, assistant coach Derek Madzia and his older brother, Donnie, had planned a trip to Las Vegas that was scheduled to depart Thursday, the original day Harrison Central was supposed to play before Mother Nature poked her nose in.
For a team from the Eastern District to reach Columbus in baseball, it takes some breaks along the way, which the Huskies had their fair share of.
After shellacking Buckeye Local, the first team to beat Harrison Central this season, the Huskies had plenty of opportunities to lose to Carrollton in a 12-inning nail-biter. No fewer than four or five times did the Harrison County nine defy defeat, eventually prevailing, 8-7.
A solid 6-2 triumph over a good Dover team pushed the Huskies into the regional tournament for the first time.
In Zanesville at Gant Municipal Stadium, Harrison Central completely dominated Vincent Warren 3-0, behind an outstanding effort by Rashaen Mitchell, both on the mound and at the plate.
That victory earned the OVAC Class 4A champions the right to battle Waverly for a trip to Columbus.
Trailing 7-1 and not generating much offense, the Huskies pecked away slowly, but surely, in slicing the deficit to 7-6 entering their final at-bat.
However, displaying that never-say-die attitude, Harrison Central rallied for two runs - the last and winning tally coming home courtesy of a balk, of all things!
Friday morning wasn't quite as generous as the ball, despite being round, took some funny bounces against the locals.
First, Mitchell, who had all five postseason mound wins, couldn't get a call from the home plate umpire. From where I was sitting directly behind the dish, the pitches weren't missing by very much at all.
But, like they say, you can't win them all the time.
Memories for a Lifetime
Harrison Central seniors Rashaen Mitchell and Nick Pelegreen enjoyed the wild ride during the final prep diamond season.
"I will remember that we've done something that no other team in Harrison Central history has done, regardless of the sport," Pelegreen said. "It was still an awesome trip even though we didn't finish it like we wanted.
"I'm still so proud of my teammates for what we've accomplished this year. I couldn't ask for anything better during my senior year."
Mitchell allowed, "I will remember this run in the tournament. To be able to put together five wins and get to the state semifinals is something I'll never forget."
Jonathan Alder, located west of Columbus on I-70, had two members of its team with area ties.
Starting shortstop Luke Nees, a sophomore, is the son of Kim Shepherd. She is a former Barnesville athlete and 1986 BHS graduate. She teaches at Hilliard Darby Junior High.
Her three brothers played football for the Shamrocks.
Luke Nees will be the starting quarterback for the Pioneers next football season.
Barton Braves' manager Billy Timko's nephew, Dalton Minor, is a member of the Pioneers' freshman squad.
The Men in Blue
Three strike-callers from the immediate area were selected to work the tournament. They include Jim Little, of Cadiz, Mike Podlasiak, of Caldwell, and Scott Anders, of Zanesville.
None, however, worked the Harrison Central game.
State Championship Teams from Eastern Ohio
According to the state baseball program, eight teams from this side of the Buckeye State have claimed state titles.
Martins Ferry (1930) and Powhatan Point (1940, 1963) represent Belmont County, while Tiltonsville (1932, 1942), Steubenville Central (1994) and Toronto (1998) are Jefferson County's teams. Monroe County is represented by Graysville Skyvue (1985).
Defiance knocked off Jonathan Alder, 14-4, in the Division II Tiffin Region semifinals last season.
The Pioneers and Bulldogs (30-1) will collide tonight at 7 for the Division II title. Defiance beat Akron Hoban, 5-1, in Friday's other semifinal.
Non-Winning Streaks Entering State Tournament
According to the state program, six of the 16 teams to make it to Columbus either lost their final regular season game, or had some kind of losing streak prior to the sectionals.
Harrison Central had lost two straight and four of seven before going on its magical run.
Division I qualifier Gahanna Lincoln lost its last regular season game, three of its last four and six of its last nine.
In Division III, Carroll Bloom-Carroll entered the postseason on a one-game losing streak, while Hamilton Badin had lost two of its last three.
In Division IV, Defiance Tinora lost its last regular season contest and two of its last five outings. Springfield entered the postseason rising a two-game losing streak. They had dropped three of their last four and five of the final eight.
Who says who have to peak at the right time?
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