Harrison Central comes up big in blanking St. Clairsville
MINGO — In the early going of their Ohio Division II East 2 district baseball semifinal Tuesday, St. Clairsville and Harrison Central did their best to harness the all-important momentum.
Both teams got runners on, but couldn’t cash in.
The Huskies finally hit the jackpot in the fourth, scoring a pair. With that energy behind them, they rolled to a 6-0 victory at the John Muth Recreational Complex and a berth in today’s district final against Steubenville. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Cambridge’s Don Coss Field.
“We had chances early and didn’t get it done,” Harrison Central head coach Mike Valesko said. “I actually felt more confident as the game went along. I thought, eventually, things will work out in our favor.”
The Huskies (15-9) left four runners stranded through three innings, but put themselves in a good position to score first in the bottom of the fourth.
With runners at third and second — both of whom reached via errors — freshman Kobe Mitchell stepped to the plate with two out. The DH, batting ninth, promptly sent a shot to right center scoring J.R. Heavilin and Austin Chappell.
“He delivered a big hit for us,” Valesko said of Mitchell. “I think, at that moment, I felt like we kind of dug in and really started believing.”
With a two-run lead, Heavilin, who toed the mound for the Huskies, gained more confidence. He retired St. Clairsville (17-8) in order in the fifth — all groundouts.
“When J.R. is on the mound and he’s pitching well and we get a two-run lead, that puts pressure on the other team,” Valesko said. “Getting those two runs (in the fourth) was huge.”
Through five, the Red Devils only mustered two hits. In the second, they had runners Peyton Drake and Jakob Jarvis at third and second, respectively, and didn’t score. Then, an inning later, they got the first two batters on, but failed to score.
“Those were big moments,” Valesko said. “If they score early, momentum in on their side.”
Missed opportunities, coupled with miscues in the field, spelled doom, according to veteran St. C head coach Tom Sliva,
“I’ve been around a long time and I don’t recall — and maybe it’s happened — I don’t recall where we’ve had double the errors than hits,” said Sliva, whose squad was tabbed with four mishaps.
“We let some things go by early. We missed some signs early. We didn’t get some things done.
“We had a chance to score first and put the momentum in our dugout and when we didn’t they did. They fed off it and they ran with it.”
Once the Huskies grabbed the lead, they got better — offensively and defensively.
Heavilin retired the final nine batters of the game, including two by strikeout. He finished with four Ks.
“That was big time,” Valesko said. “That’s what a senior is supposed to do in those moments. He struggled the last time we played them and I knew he wanted the ball. He wanted a shot at redemption and he pitched lights-out for us.”
Heavilin’s offense provided more support in the fifth, courtesy of four more runs. The big blow came off the bat of Chappell, who’s bases-clearing triple gave Harrison Central more than enough runs to get the job done.
All five RBI came with two out.
“Just an excellent job by our guys of having clutch at-bats,” Valesko beamed.