First title for Huskies since 2006
STEUBENVILLE – Harrison Central rode the arm of Rashaen Mitchell and an opportunistic offense to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A championship Saturday at Vacarro Field.
Mitchell, the senior lefty, didn’t have his best stuff but what he had was good enough for the Huskies to beat Big Red 11-4 for the school’s first league title since 2006.
He went the distance for Justin Clifford’s club, scattering four hits and mowing down 11 Big Red batters via strikes.
“We debated whether or not he was going to go today,” Clifford said of Mitchell. “He hasn’t had this best stuff in the last couple games. It was just a gutsy performance. He said last night he was ready to go and wanted the ball.
“We weren’t thinking we’d get seven out of him. We were thinking four or maybe five. He kept coming in saying he wanted to go. What can you say about the kid? He did a great job.”
Offensively, the Huskies managed just eight hits but took full advantage of nine walks and several Big Red fielding miscues.
“We’ve done that all year,” Clifford stated. “We haven’t really come on and recorded 15 or 16 hits in a game. We have been able to manufacture runs. The kids are doing what they’re supposed to do. They are getting bunts down and being patient at the plate.”
Harrison’s first three runs came via some two-out lighting. In the initial frame, Mitchell and Nick Pelegreen both drew walks from Big Red starter Anthony Zorne. Drew Horn moved them up with an infield chop single. Mitchell scored when Nice Staten worked Zorne for a free pass. Pelegreen made it 2-0, scoring on a wild pitch.
To its credit, Big Red came right back in the top of the second to take the lead.
Justin Corsi started the rally when he lined a single past the Harrison third baseman. Pat Pizzoferrato roped one up the middle and Kai McClurg reached via an error to load the sacks. Corsi raced home on a wild pitch. Lucas Herrington’s sharp single to right chased home two more runs.
Mitchell’s RBI single in the bottom of the frame knotted the score at 3-3. His hit plated Dalton Rutter who drew a two-out walk and advanced on a.
The Huskies broke things open in the fourth, scoring five runs on just two hits. Clifford’s crew worked Big Red’s pitchers for four straight walks, scored two runs on wild pitches and a third following an errant throw to third. Designated hitter Rhett Kuryn then drilled a double to deep left to produce another tally.
Matt Petrella’s RBI single accounted for Big Red’s final run in the fifth. Harrison Central added some insurance tallies in the sixth. Staten and Kuryn both driving home runs.
Kuryn paced the Huskie offense with two hits and 2RBI.
“He’s been struggling a little lately,” Clifford said of Kuryn. “We didn’t have him in the order the other night, just to clear his head a little. Our seniors, however, have just done what we have asked them. In big spots today, they came up big.”
For Big Red’s Fred Heatherington, the result came down to a simple matter.
“Our defense was atrocious,” he said. “We did a pretty good job at the plate and we battled. The game came down to the fact that we didn’t make plays and they did.”
Zorne, Big Red’s freshman lefthander, hung tough against the Huskies for three innings before giving way to Evan Westlake in the fourth.
“Anthony didn’t have his best stuff and Evan didn’t have his best stuff,” Heatherington added. “But when they put the ball in play, we have to make plays. We didn’t make plays today and we threw the ball all over the field.
“That’s not us, but it was today. We have to regroup and get ready for the tournament.”
Big Red, now 13-8, will entertain Union Local Tuesday.
The conference crown was the fourth in school history for Harrison Central, which improved to 16-5.
“This one has been a long time coming,” Clifford said. “This senior group deserves it. They went through their aches and pains early on. They have really turned it around these last two years.”
The Huskies return to action Monday, visiting Union Local.