STEUBENVILLE - It seemed fitting that several seniors would play key roles in Big Red winning its final regular-season home game Thursday.
Evan Westlake went the route on the hill and John Linn belted the first home run of his varsity career as Fred Heatherington's club clipped St. Clairsville 6-3 at Vacarro Field.
Westlake, the senior righty, allowed eight hits (all singles), whiffed seven Red Devil hitters and escaped a couple of jams as Big Red ran its seasonal mark to 16-8.
"Evan struggled a little but he hung in there," Heatherington said. "Our defense made the plays in the field again tonight.
"We're playing better at the right time. This is when we want to be playing our best ball."
St. Clairsville freshman Brandon Ducker kept Big Red's offense in check until the fourth.
Linn, the senior second baseman, ignited a five-run rally when he sent a Ducker pitch over the fence in right field. His round-tripper scored Bryan Pierro, who reached via a single up the middle.
Senior Pat Pizzoferrato, celebrating his 18th birthday, kept things going with a double to left. Westlake then belted a triple to deep center, scoring Pizzoferrato. Cody Saltsman and Kai McClurg also had run-scoring hits as Big Red took the lead for good.
"We hit the ball hard that inning," Heatherington noted. "Earlier in the game, we had some not so hard hits, balls off the top of the bats and balls of the handles. Our hitters hung in there and we put an inning together.
"We did struggle until the fourth. We left the bases loaded in the first but we hung in there, didn't get our heads down, had a big inning and won the game."
Ducker, who recorded four strikeouts, allowed Big Red's other run in the second. Lucas Herrington reached on a fielder's choice and touched home after Pierro's fly to right was mishandled.
"That was the first time he (Ducker) threw seven varsity innings," St. Clairsville's Tom Sliva said. "We've used him as a spot starter for two or three innings and in relief. I was really happy with the way he competed.
"We did a good job of battling. Big Red is a very good team, always well-coached and they always do things right. I'm happy with the way we competed, but not happy with the end result."
The Red Devils scored all their runs in the top of the fourth. The key blows were Malik Gummer's two-run single and Patrick Buchanan's run-producing base knock.
St. Clairsville did threaten in the first, third and sixth (it had the bases loaded with two outs but Westlake recorded a strikeout to escape trouble). The visitors left 11 runners on base.
"Leaving guys on has been a sign of things for us lately," Sliva noted. "We're definitely getting better but we have to get a little more disciplined at the plate."
McClurg paced Big Red's 11-hit attack with three singles. Linn had a base knock to go with his homer. Westlake also had two hits.
Gummer, Daulton Freeman and Buchanan all had two singles each for the Red Devils, who begin Division III sectional play Saturday. St. Clairsville, 9-15, will tangle with Buckeye 8 rival Union Local at 1:30 p.m.in Cambridge.
Big Red will finish regular season play today at Edison then launch Division II action Saturday at Vacarro Field. Heatherington's squad will meet Meadowbrook, the first pitch set for 11 a.m.
"We just want to play," Heatherington responded when asked about competing the day before sectionals begin. "It (today's trip to Edison) is our last regular season game. We have the first game in the tournament and that's what we want."
Big Red 6, St. Clairsville 3
St. Clairsville 000 300 0 - 3 8 2
Big Red 010 500 x - 6 11 1
ST. CLAIRSVILLE (9-15): Ducker (LP, 3BB, 4K, 2HB) and Slavik. Gummer 2S, 2RBI; Freeman 2S; Buchanan 2S, RBI; Giffen S; Slavik S.
BIG RED (16-8): Westlake (WP, 6BB, 7K, 2HB) and McClurg. McClurg 3S, RBI; Linn HR, S, 2RBI; Westlake T, S, RBI; Saltsman D, RBI; Pizzoferrato D; Pierro S; Zorne S.