STEUBENVILLE - The Kardiac Red struck again Tuesday at Vacarro Field.
For the third consecutive game, Fred Heatherington's Big Red baseball team recorded a victory during its last trip to the plate. The latest victim of a thrilling Red rally was Bellaire.
The boys from Belmont County were up by three (7-4) heading into the home half of the seventh. Seven batters later, the Big Reds were on the wrong end of an 8-7 final.
"Our kids are resilient," Heatherington explained after watching his team improve to 17-4. "They're doing a great job of staying in a game until the game is over and that's all you can ask.
"It doesn't matter how many runs we get down. Our kids don't get bothered, they stay in the game."
Senior Kai McClurg launched the seventh inning explosion when he lined a Spencer Badia offering up the middle for a single. Justin Corsi reached after being clipped by a pitch. Both runners (Travis Wolfe came on to run for Corsi) advanced on a throwing error. Badia registered a strike out before Lucas Herrington delivered a key base hit, scoring two.
Bryan Pierro's double to center put Big Red runners at second and third with one out. Dmitri Collaros drew an intentional walk to juice the sacks. Sophomore Anthony Zorne then laced a single to center to plate the winning tallies.
Big Red was held scoreless through four by Bellaire starter Nick Patrone. Heatherington's squad did load the bases in the second and third but Patrone dodged trouble each time.
After retiring the side on punch outs in the fourth, Patrone encountered some trouble in the fifth. Pierro's ground ball was misplayed to start the frame. Collaros walked and both moved up on a wild pitch. Niko Petrides earned a free pass to load the bases. Pierro touched home thanks to another wild pitch.
Branden Jones walked to re-load the bases. Badia then came on and retired two straight to keep the score at 5-1. Through five innings, Big Red stranded nine base runners.
The OVAC Class 4A champions got to Badia for three in the sixth. Kasey Peterson was hit by a pitch and Herrington singled to right (his hit was Big Red's first since the second frame). Pierro then drove one to right and Bellaire's outfielder lost the ball in the sun. The two-bagger allowed Rob Agresta (he was running for Peterson) to race home. The deficit was sliced to 7-4 on Collaros' single back through the middle.
Patrone worked four and a third innings, recording eight K's but also issuing eight walks.
"We came in with a plan to hit good pitches," Heatherington said. "We knew their pitcher was going to throw a lot of balls and he did. He threw a great game but seemed to wear himself out. I think we had something to do with that. Our kids weren't up there at bad pitches and that was part of our plan.
"Our kids work hard to get a good pitch to hit. You can't complain when they are doing that. Sometimes you take a fastball down the middle-that's the way it goes. They're showing great discipline at the plate and that's why we've been successful."
Big Red pushed across four runs in the seventh on Thursday to clip city rival Catholic Central. On Friday, Heatherington's team plated the tie-breaking run in the ninth to earn the school's 20th OVAC title.
"We just kind of fell apart there at the end," Bellaire coach John Patrone noted. "I told our kids to know the situation during the last couple of innings. They (Big Red) were on base all day. One hit here or there and it could have been totally different early on. We know we let this one get away.
"They're a good ball team. He (Heatherington) doesn't have 500 wins for nothing. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough one. I told our guys Big Red doesn't quit. You just can't let a good team hang around. That one in right field was tough, but they were playing on the same field as us. It came down to they made the plays and we didn't"
Devin Ferguson went the distance to earn the pitching victory. The sophomore was nicked for 11 hits and fanned five. He allowed two runs in the first (two-out singles by Badia and Brendon Ross along with Hunter Westlake's triple produced the tallies).
During the next three innings, Ferguson retired nine of 10 batters he faced. The Big Reds did plated three in the fifth. Wyatt Back, Tyler West, N. Patrone and Ross all collected singles. Ross' hit scored a run as did Westlake's sacrifice fly to left.
Bralen Snell's two-out double in the sixth opened the door for another Bellaire rally. He scored on West's hit. Nick Hall's base knock allowed West to cross the plate. Ferguson recovered and posted a 1-2-3 seventh.
"They put two quick ones on the board with two outs in the first but he (Ferguson) didn't give up," Heatherington pointed out. He came back and pitched a great game himself. He kept his composure.
"Even when we had a couple of bad plays behind, he didn't get down. He kept throwing stroking and we made them put the ball in play."
Big Red is scheduled to host Union Local today.
Bellaire, now 12-6, outhit Big Red 11-8. In two games at Vaccaro Field this season, the Big Reds have scored 27 runs and collected 28 hits. J. Patrone's club will host Catholic Central this afternoon.
"We put the ball in play today," J. Patrone stated. "That's one of the things I stressed after the loss to Linsly when we had just three hits. We still have some work to do to get ready for the tournament."
Big Red 8, Bellaire 7
Bellaire 200 032 0 - 7 11 2
Big Red 000 013 4 - 8 8 1
BELLAIRE (12-6): N. Patrone (8BB, 8K, 1 HBP) Badia (5, LP, 1BB, 2K, 1 HBP) and Back. West 2S, RBI; N. Patrone S; Hall S, RBI; Badia S; Westlake T, 2RBI; Ross 2S, 2RBI; Back S; Snell S, D.
STEUBENVILLE (17-4): Ferguson (WP, 3BB, 5K) and McClurg. Pierro 2D, RBI; Collaros S, 2RBI; Zorne S, 2RBI; McClurg 2S; Herrington 2S, 2RBI.