Big Red scores early, often to advance
CADIZ — Veteran Big Red coach Fred Heatherington had a pretty simple game plan heading into Monday’s Division II district semifinals against Maysville — score early and have solid pitching.
Despite a few hiccups, things still worked according to plan for third-seeded Big Red.
The offense got on the board early and often, and Caesen Sutton was strong on the hill, as Steubenville disposed of the ninth-seeded Panthers, 13-3, in six innings on Robert Mazeroski Memorial Field inside Sally Buffalo Park.
Thanks to the win, the now 22-6 Big Red will play for its 26th district title when it meets Indian Valley in Wednesday’s East 1 championship game at Cambridge. The Braves, seeded second, advanced via a 7-6 walk-off triumph over River View.
“That was our philosophy coming into the game — jump out early, get a good lead and let our pitcher relax,” Heatherington said. “We wanted our pitcher to throw strikes and let our defense make the plays behind him. The problem was our defense didn’t make the plays (Steubenville committed three errors), and that’s something we have to correct before Wednesday.”
Maysville (11-10) loaded the bases with two outs in the first. Damon Wheeler was clipped by a Sutton pitch, Caden Mercer singled and Kaden Hall reached on a fielding miscue. Sutton, just a sophomore, recorded the third out on a routine pop fly.
Big Red wasted no time grabbing an early lead. Scotty Mitchell got on thanks to a Maysville error, Dom DeFrances was hit by a pitch and left-handed hitting Niko Kausky rifled a double to left to make it 2-0. Calvin Bickerstaff’s single plated Kausky.
“We had the bases loaded but were not able to scratch out a run, Maysville coach Nathan Prati said. “Scoring there maybe gives us a little momentum. Then we get a no-out ground ball that we throw away, and they pick him up. It was just a complete 180.
“You never know how things might shake out. With a young team like ours, we might have been able to catch our breath and feel a little bit of confidence had we scored.”
Heatherington’s club added two more in the second on Clayton Criss’ two-out single to right. His hit plated DeFrances, who singled, and Kausky, who doubled in two consecutive innings.
Big Red put four more runs on the board in the third. Scotty Mitchell, DeFrances and Kausky all drove home tallies.
The Panthers got to Sutton for three in the fourth. Hall was safe on an error. Clayton Baker walked and Logan Smith doubled in a run. Jacob Riggle plated a pair with his two-base hit.
“We kept battling and tried to fight back,” Prati said. “We scored three in the fourth and tried to get back in the ball game but we just didn’t have enough fire power today.
“Overall, I was happy with the way we played. I would have liked to have seen a little better effort. You can’t make any mistakes against a good team like Steubenville because they make you pay.”
Steubenville responded with a two-spot in its half of the inning. Quinn McCoy started things with a double to right. Bickerstaff belted a triple to deep center and scored on Carlo Biasi’s grounder to short.
After a scoreless fifth, Big Red ended things in the sixth. J.T. Thompson singled, advanced on Ethan Duggan’s base hit and scored on Luke Zorne’s base knock. Mitchell’s single plated Duggan to seal the deal.
Big Red finished with 16 hits. Mitchell had three singles while Bickerstaff, Kausky, Criss, DeFrances and Duggan all had two hits. Kausky recorded three RBI. Mitchell, Criss and Bickerstaff knocked home two each.
“We hit the ball well and we hit it well to the opposite field,” Heatherington said. “We were fortunate to win.
“We’re swinging the bats well. Defensively, we have to shore things up. We have been playing good defense all year until today. We can’t let things get sloppy.”
In collecting the pitching win, Sutton allowed just four hits (Smith had two to pace Maysville) and finished with eight strikeouts. He surrendered just one walk.
“He threw well and he threw strikes,” Heatherington said of Sutton. “He make them put the ball in play but we just didn’t make the plays behind him. That can’t happen down the road.”
Sutton’s solid outing means Heatherington will have his two junior aces (Bickerstaff and Kausky) both available for Wednesday.
“We’ll see who we put out there,” Heatherington said. “We wanted to go with Caesen today. He did what we wanted and that’s all we can ask.”
Smith started for Maysville and took the loss. Baker came on in the third.
Maysville: Season concludes.
“We were a pretty young team with only four seniors,” Prati said. “We started playing well in the middle of the season, then had to deal with some injuries late in the season.
“We were able to put it together and win a sectional championship. That gave us a chance to try and reach the district finals for the first time in about 20 years.”
Big Red: Ranked 11th in this week’s Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Division II poll, it will be going for its sixth straight district title. Indian Valley is ranked 14th by the OHSBCA.
“That is why you are playing now — you are playing to move on and the further you move, the tougher it is going to get but that’s what we want,” Heatherington said. “We just have to be ready to play.”
Steubenville 13, Maysville 3
Maysville 0-0-0 3-0-0 — 3-4-2
Steubenville 3-2-4 2-0-2 — 13-16-3
MAYSVILLE (11-10): Smith (LP, 21/3 IP, 9R, 8H, 1K, 2BB, 1HBP) Baker (31/3 IP, 3R, 7H, 1BB) and Wheeler.
STEUBENVILLE (22-6): Sutton (WP, 6IP, 3R, 4H, 7K, 1BB, 1HBP) and Criss.
TWO OR MORE HITS: Maysville (Smith 2); Steubenville (Mitchell 3; Bickerstaff 2; Kausky 2; Criss 2; DeFrances 2; Duggan 2). DOUBLES: Maysville 2 (Smith, Riggle) Steubenville 2 (Kausky 2). TRIPLES: Steubenville 1 (Bickerstaff). RBIs: Maysville (Riggle 2; Smith); Steubenville (Kausky 3; Mitchell 2; Criss 2; Bickerstaff 2; DeFrances; Biasi; Zorne).