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Big Red shakes off the Quakers

STEUBENVILLE — Big Red tuned up for Saturday’s OVAC Class 5A semifinals by gaining a little revenge over future conference member New Philadelphia.

Fred Heatherington’s club took full advantage of six Quaker fielding miscues, delivered a couple of key hits and received solid relief pitching from senior Dylan Cunningham in earning a 7-6 victory Thursday at Vaccaro Field. New Philadelphia, which recently joined the OVAC along with Tuscarawas County rival Dover, handed Steubenville a 9-8 defeat earlier in the season.

The Quakers (4-13) got on the board in the second when starting pitcher Luke Ernest touched them all thanks to a shot over the fence in left.

Big Red responded with a pair in its half of the frame. Quinn McCoy and Hayden Savage reached on errors, and scored when Ethan Duggan also was safe on a fielding miscue.

The score moved to 3-1 in the third. Steubenville’s Scotty Mitchell got things started with a hustle double to right center. He moved to third on a throwing error and scored when Dom DeFrances lifted a fly to deep left.

After threatening in the third and fourth, New Philly got to Big Red starter Caesen Sutton in the fifth. Cade Skinner singled, Drew Dummermuth walked and Nathan Anderson followed with a base hit to load the sacks. Ernest stepped in and delivered another rocket shot to left. His grand slam made it 5-3.

The hosts came right back with to take a 7-5 lead. Mitchell reached on an error, then scored on Niko Kausky’s double. Criss’ second single of the game plated Kausky. A New Philly throwing error and Luke Zorne’s base knock accounted for the other two runs.

“New Philadelphia is a good hitting team. They put the ball in play hard,” Heatherington said. “But, we battled. They put four up on us, and we came right back with four.

“That’s the way we’ve been playing lately. As long as we keep battling, we have a chance to win games.”

Sutton, who worked 4 1/3 innings before giving way to Cunningham, gave up a leadoff single in the third to Baron May. He moved up on Skinner’s sacrifice bunt. Sutton then retired the next two batters to end the threat.

In the fourth, Ernest and Brayden Billman delivered back-to-back singles. Big Red’s Ethan Duggan fielded a grounder off the bat of Mason Ricklic, stepped on third and fired to second to complete a rally-ending double play. Sutton got a strikeout to end the ending.

Cunningham did surrender a home run to May in the sixth but retired the final six batters he faced to earn the victory.

“He struggled with a couple of his pitches,” Heatherington said of Sutton. “He was only getting one pitch over, and they were sitting on the fastball, so we had to get him out of there. D.C. came in and shut them down. He did a great job for us today.”

Kausky, Zorne and Criss all had two hits apiece for Big Red, now 10-5.

“We had a couple of timely hits in the fifth from Niko, Clayton and Luke,” Heatherington said. “Coming in, we told our guys if we put the ball in play on the ground or with line drivers, we’d have a chance to get on base. They did that.”

Ernest worked 4 1/3 innings for New Philly before giving way to Billman, who was tagged with the lost. At the plate, Ernest had three singles and knocked in five runs. May also delivered third hits and an RBI.

“We swung the bats well today,” New Philadelphia coach Tyler Weisel said. “I think today was an accumulation of all the work we’ve been putting in offensively. We’ve been pretty good defensively this year. Today, we just didn’t make enough plays for sure.

“I told our guys that is a really good team over there. Their coach always has them ready to play. If we can bang with those guys, we can bang with anyone.”

Thursday’s contest was a glimpse at possible OVAC rivals. Weisel is looking forward to his Quakers competing in the conference next season.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for our guys. It’s an opportunity to play some really good teams that we haven’t seen before. And, hopefully, we can continue playing Big Red.”

UP NEXT

BIG RED: Visits second-seeded Wheeling Saturday at 2 p.m. in the OVAC semifinals.

“We need to practice really hard Friday,” Heatherington said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We’re winning, but we still have to get better.”

Steubenville 7, New Philadelphia 6

N.P. 0-1-0 0-4-1-0 — 6-9-6

Steubenville 0-2-1 0-4-0 x — 7-7-1

NEW PHILADELPHIA (4-13): Ernest (4 1/3 IP, 5R, 5H, 1K) Billman (lp, 12/3 IP, 2R, 2H, 4K, 1HBP) and Anderson.

STEUBENVILE (10-5): Sutton (4 1/3 IP, 5R, 8H, 3K 2BB) Cunningham (wp, 2 2/3 IP, 1R, 1H, 1K) and Criss.

TWO OR MORE HITS: New Philadelphia (Ernest 2HR, S; May HR, D, S) Big Red Kausky D, S; Zorne D, S; Criss 2S); DOUBLES: New Philadelphia (May); Big Red 2 (Kausky, Zorne); TRIPLES: None; HOME RUNS New Philadelphia 3 (Ernest 2; May); RBIs: New Philadelphia (Ernest 5; May); Big Red (Kausky; DeFrances; Criss; Zorne).

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