Harrison marches onward

Harrison Central’s Kaden Dunkle (7) celebrates after scoring a run in the seventh inning with teammate Reed Arbaugh during Thursday’s Division III regional semifinal game at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus.


Times Leader Sports Editor

COLUMBUS — If Harrison Central head coach Mike Valesko yelled it once to his team in its dugout Thursday afternoon, he yelled it a million times.

Regardless if it was when the Huskies looked up at a 5-1 deficit after five or after they stormed back to take its first lead in the top of the seventh, Valesko continued to pound the message home that the game is seven full innings and 21 defensive outs are required for victory.

The words certainly weren’t wasted and the message came across loud and clear. The Huskies were able to retire Winchester Eastern 21 times and have put themselves on the brink of the OHSAA Division III State Baseball Tournament thanks to their 8-5 win against Winchester Eastern at sun-drenched Frank Damien Field on the campus of Ohio Dominican University.

“We told our guys that when you get to this point in the season, you’re going to need all seven innings,” Valesko said. “We weren’t just going to quit when things weren’t going well for us, and we knew they weren’t going to quit. Whether you’re up four or down four, we knew we had to keep playing for seven innings.”

The Huskies, who did all of their offensive damage in their final three at-bats, stayed in the Columbus metropolitan area Thursday evening and will take on perennial power Wheelersburg today at 3 at Lancaster’s Beavers Field.

“It’s going to be a quick turnaround for us,” Valesko said. “We’re going to get locked into our hotel room and try to gather as much information as we can on Wheelersburg. What more can you ask for? An opportunity to go to the state tournament has to go through Wheelersburg, which is a school everyone knows about in not only baseball, but in all athletics. Who else would you want to go through? These are the kinds of games you want to play as a competitor.”

Before any thought could be given to the Pirates, Harrison Central had its hands full with an Eastern club that jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third and then after the Huskies pushed across a run in the fifth, answered with a three spot.

There wasn’t an ounce of panic from the Huskies.

“We faced a little bit of adversity,” Harrison Central senior Treston Nemeth, who went the distance on the mound to earn his second straight tourney pitching victory. “What I love most about this team is that we get down, but we’re always coming back and believing in each other.”

Nemeth, who was coming off a no hitter in the district final against Fort Frye, was touched up for three hits in the fifth.

“I just knew I had to get out of the inning and get our offense back to the plate,” Nemeth said.

The Harrison Central of Class of 2023 valedictorian caught the final Warriors’ hitter of the inning looking and it seemed to serve as a pick-me-up for the Huskies.

Nemeth led off the bottom of the inning with a single and moved to second when Tucker Snyder walked. After a strikeout, freshman Braden Cook laced an RBI single into left. After another strikeout, Cabot Arbaugh reached on a fielder’s choice in which nary an out was recorded and his brother, Reed, was then plunked to force home Snyder.

Kaden Jurosko followed with an RBI single and Leland Lopez also delivered a RBI single to knot the game.

Nemeth then got back-to-back strikeouts to begin the home half of the sixth and following an error on the infield, he induced a ground ball to short in which Jurosko stepped on second to keep the momentum with the Huskies.

“I don’t know if it’s because of the guys we have, but I never felt like the game was over,” Valesko said. “Our guys kept battling and putting together quality at-bats. I felt like as the game went along, we had better at-bats and kept playing. Treston kept us in it on the mound and finally our guys came through offensively.”

In the seventh, Harrison Central wasted no time. Working against the third Eastern pitcher of the day, Snyder reached on an error, Madzia walked and Cook became the fifth Huskies player to be hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Pelegreen worked a walk for what proved to be the game-winning RBI. Cabot Arbaugh hit a high chopper to third, which Eastern fielded, but the throw was off the mark and Madzia was safe and as the ball kicked away from the catcher, Kaden Dunkle alertly raced home for the third run of the inning.

The rest was up to Nemeth. He got a ground out, strikeout and following a single he got the final out on a lazy fly ball to left.

“It’s taken 12 and 13 guys each night for us to get this done, and that’s what’s been so fun about this (run),” Valesko said. “It’s taken everyone.”

Nemeth, who had just one hit in the game and was robbed of an extra base hit in the sixth, struck out six and was very efficient with his pitch count. He allowed only three earned runs and five hits.


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