Huskies are regional bound
STEUBENVILLE – Don’t be surprised if Justin Clifford tries to petition the OHSAA to move the Division II, Region 7 semifinal baseball game to Vaccaro Field.
And why not?
After all, his Harrison Central squad is a perfect 4-0 on the well-manicured Steubenville diamond, winning OVAC Class 4A and D-II sectional titles along the way.
The Huskies (24-5) completed that spotless mark with a convincing 6-2 triumph over highly regarded Dover (25-4) here Wednesday night in the district championship tilt under cloudy skies and before a huge contingent.
With the victory, Harrison Central will be entering unchartered waters when it travels to Gant Memorial Stadium in Zanesville on Thursday, May 30 at 2 p.m. The Huskies will meet Vincent Warren, which routed Washington Court House, 11-3, in Athens last night.
“These guys have come a long, long way since their freshmen year when they only won a couple of games,” Clifford said. “It’s not just these kids. It’s the parents. The coaches. The community. Everybody has a part in this.”
The win wasn’t a one-man show either, but you could present a good argument for senior pitcher Rashaen Mitchell. He struck out eight, didn’t walk a hitter and allowed a pair of harmless singles. The crafty southpaw threw 101 pitches (64 strikes) and retired the final 10 Tornadoes in the 1-hr., 58-min. contest.
“We’ve talked all year that if you throw strikes and field the ball, you give yourself a chance to win,” Clifford continued. “What a performance tonight by Rashaen Mitchell! On three days rest and he comes back and throws a two-hitter against a 25-win team.
“He threw it and we fielded it. We had more than a few outstanding plays in the field,” Clifford added. “Nick Pelegreen took a couple of off his chest to get outs. Dustin Redish with that great play up the middle. Ryan Rose, Drew Horn, Austin Kowalski … I could name them all.”
Every Huskie, except one, had at least one base hit. Kowalski, the sophomore No. 8 hitter, continued his timely production with a pair of singles that knocked in a run.
“I tell everybody that’s good coaching because I’ve DH’d for him all year. That shows you how smart I am,” Clifford said with a laugh.
Trailing 1-0 after an inning, Harrison Central used an unearned run to draw even. Nick Pelegreen singled to center leading off and, with one out, Nick Staten walked. Rhett Kuryn’s slow roller to short was thrown to second for the force, but the relay to first in an attempt to turn two got away as Pelegreen chugged down the line and went head-first into home.
The Huskies took the lead for good in the third when Dalton Rutter had his jersey clipped with a 1-1 pitch from Dover starter, and loser, Kyle Abel with one out. A wild pitch moved the speedy Rutter to second. With two outs, the left-handed hitting Mitchell went the other way in knocking in Rutter for a 2-1 edge.
Kowalski’s RBI single to left in the fourth chased home Staten, who had doubled with one out, for a 3-1 lead. Rutter’s sacrifice fly to center plated pinch runner Austin Porter.
A pair of Harrison Central errors allowed Dover to score its second run in the bottom of the inning.
The Huskies added a pair of insurance tallies in the seventh on Drew Horn’s two-run single to left.
“This is a hard-working group of kids from Harrison County,” Clifford said of his team. They really don’t care where they play. They’ll play wherever they are told to.”
Mitchell improved to 8-1 on the year.
“This feels really good because I played as a freshman and we weren’t very good, and now we’re going to the regionals. It’s great,” Mitchell said. “My guys behind me made some really good plays.”
Harrison Central 011 200 2 – 6 9 3
Dover 100 100 0 – 2 2 2
Batteries: R. Mitchell and Staten. Abel, Lung (4) and Birtcher