Big Red earns district crown with win over John Glenn

WARSAW – Big Red rode some two-out lighting to build an early lead then held on for dear life in grabbing a Division II District baseball championship Thursday.

Anthony Zorne was an absolute warrior on the hill and Kai McClurg delivered a clutch two-run single as Fred Heatherington’s club won a 5-4 nail-biter over John Glenn at River View High School’s Ron Tisko Field.

With the victory, Big Red, now 23-4 and winners of 13 straight, advances to next week’s regional event at Zanesville’s Gant Municipal Stadium. Steubenville will face the other Warsaw survivor, either Dover or Minerva. Those clubs are scheduled to collide on Saturday.

“We jumped out early and held on thankfully,” a relieved Heatherington said after guiding his squad to Big Red’s 21st district crown. “After the sectional championship, we said who would have thunk it. Coming out here today, we thunk it and our kids deserve this.”

Big Red, which now has a 9-1 record in tournament games played at the Tisko facility, got two unearned tallies in the home half of the first. Zorne was hit by a pitch with outs and Niko Petrides followed with a double to left center.

They both touched home following a wild pitch by John Glenn starter Parker Evans and an error charged to the Muskie catcher.

John Glenn made it 2-1 in the home half of the frame. Ben Vanway beat out an infield grounder for a lead-off single. He swiped second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored via Luke Klinehoffer’s base knock.

Heatherington’s team scored the rest of its runs in the third, again after two were gone.

Bryan Pierro’s hard shot to the left side launched the rally. Dimitri Collaros worked Evans for a walk. Pierro stole third after Zorne went down swinging and raced home thanks to an overthrow.

Petrides and Branden Jones both drew free passes to load the sacks. McClurg followed with his seeing-eye single down the third base line, Collaros and Petrides both crossing the dish.

“I was just looking for something over the plate,” McClurg, Big Red’s senior catcher, stated. “I just wanted to do anything I could to help my team. At first, I thought I was out, then I saw the ball go by the third baseman and I got pretty excited.

“It feels great to win a district championship. We’ve been wanting to do this for a while.”

As Heatherington pointed out, McClurg’s hit was “big.”

“The runs early helped us,” he noted. “I think they calmed us then the calm just took over the rest of the game.”

Evans gave way to Cameron Roberts in the fourth and the Muskie lefty silenced Big Red’s offense the rest of the way. In four innings of work, he recorded nine punch outs and allowed just one hit, a seventh inning single by Zorne.

“That’s a good team,” Heatherington said of John Glenn. “The lefty they brought in shut us down but our kids remained calm and that is one of the good things about this bunch. We’ve come from behind a lot this year and in this game, we had to hold on. I believe the calmness helped us.”

Big Red entered the one-game district event ranked third in this week’s Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association D II poll. The Muskies, who drop the curtain at 22-5, were sixth.

John Glenn’s second run came in the third. Vanway drew a lead-off walk, moved up on Luke Larson’s single and scored when Klinehoffer laced a double to left center.

The Muskies added two more in the sixth, Vanway getting a RBI and a Big Red throwing error allowing the other tally. John Glenn had two runners in scoring position with one out before Zorne retired a pair to escape further damage.

Zorne went the distance on the hill, fanning four and allowing 10 hits. In every inning but the seventh, the John Glen lead-off hitter reached base. The Muskies strained seven runners as Zorne worked his way out of several jams.

“They were hitting me pretty good but I just stayed tough and focused,” Big Red’s sophomore lefty said. “They’re probably the best hitting team I’ve faced. I knew coming in they weren’t going to strike out a lot and they were going to put the ball in play. I knew we just had to make the plays.

In the John Glenn seventh, Zorne induced two routine fly balls before sealing the deal with a strikeout.

“In the seventh, I felt the best out of all the innings,” he stated. “It feels great to win a district championship.”

John Glen outhit Big Red 10-4.

“Anthony battled the whole game,” Heatherington pointed out. “He didn’t have this curve ball and he got by on two pitches. But that was good enough for us. He just gets out there and competes.”