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Huskies erase deficits for sectional crown

Kim North SLIDING IN — Harrison Central’s Maddy Butler slides safely into home past Buckeye Trail pitcher Sid Beaver during Thursday’s Division III sectional final.

CADIZ — Once could just sense that whichever team scored last Thursday would win a Division III sectional softball championship.

When the dust had settled, No. 3 seed Harrison Central plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally past Buckeye Trail, 8-7, for its first trip to the district tournament since 2014.

The Huskies (17-6) will meet Union Local Monday at 5 p.m. at Indian Valley High School in Gnadenhutten. The 8th-seeded Jets (12-10) outscored No. 14 West Muskingum, 15-14, Thursday in Morristown in the other sectional final.

“We got that monkey off our backs. We finally won a sectional title,” Harrison Central fifth-year head coach Darrin Young said. “No one really stood out individually. It was a great team effort. We got down early, and in years past we would’ve packed it in and got beat, but not this team.

“They battled and battled. They went through the order once and struggled against their pitcher (Sid Beaver). But, I knew sooner or later we would break through, and that’s what happened in the fifth inning.”

Harrison Central scored four times in the aforementioned frame to take a 6-5 advantage, but No. 7 seed Buckeye Trail answered with a pair in the top of the sixth to regain a 7-6 edge that set the stage for the Huskies’ comeback.

With one out, speedy leadoff hitter Maddy Butler legged out a bunt for her second such hit of the game. She promptly swiped second — one of six stolen bases in the game for Harrison Central — and moved to third when Britton Positano’s sacrifice bunt was bobbled for an error. After Positano took second without a throw — one of five such instances — Buckeye Trail catcher Maizey Lanning couldn’t handle a Beaver offering, as Butler raced home with the tying run and Positano went to third. After Sarah Touville walked on a 3-2 pitch after being down 0-2, Lexi Ferguson rifled a bullet up the middle to drive in Positano with what turned out to be the game-winner.

“I told the girls when we were down 3-0 and 5-2 to keep chipping away, and that’s what they did,” Young said. “They did a good job.”

Husky pitcher Tristen Kovarik, who struggled at times inside the circle, hadn’t retired the Warriors in order over the first six frames.

However, that changed in the seventh, as she induced a foul pop-up to first baseman Jenna Young, a ground out to short and finishing it herself with a strikeout looking.

“That was the only inning that she went 1-2-3. I told her before the inning started that we were only three outs away from the first sectional championship since 2014,” Coach Young said. “She did a good job.”

Not overpowering, Kovarik struck out three, walked a pair and yielded nine hits. She threw 90 pitches, with 59 being strikes.

Coach Young admitted he was scared coming into the game.

“We hadn’t played in six days, and that was a lackluster performance (a 9-5 loss at St. Clairsville) on Friday,” he said. “We had a decent week of practice, but it’s not like playing a game.”

In talking about a team effort, Butler, Ferguson and Danyel Beadling all had a pair of singles, with the latter two driving in a run each. Touville had key two-run single that keyed the fifth-inning uprising and Lizzy Clelland knocked in the Huskies first two runs with a clutch two-run single with two outs in the fourth. Abby Jozwiak had a double.

Beaver fanned three, issued one free pass and gave up 10 hits. She tossed 98 pitches (72 strikes) and had a trio of one-base hits that drove in two runs. Gracie Roe launched a two-run homer to deep left in the third and also singled, while Emma Smith had a single and double.

Despite both being members of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Buckeye 8, Harrison Central and Union Local did not meet this season. The winner moves on to the district finals on May 19 opposite the winner of No. 2 seed Edison and fourth-seeded Tuscarawas Valley.

Meanwhile, Harrison Central will complete the regular season portion of its schedule on Saturday when it hosts Garaway in what will be the final game played on the Cravat Coal Complex diamond. The Huskies are moving into the new state-of-the-art all-turf stadium next season.

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