Fast start paces Big Red over Huskies

STEUBENVILLE – As veteran coach Fred Heatherington correctly stated, Saturday’s OVAC Class 4A semifinal between his Big Red and Harrison Central was basically over after one inning.

Heatherington’s top-seeded club exploded for 10 runs in the home half of the frame and coasted to an 11-2 victory at Vacarro Field.

Big Red, now 14-4, will play for an OVAC championship when it meets Martins Ferry (which blanked St. Clairsville in the other semifinal) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Toronto.

“We jumped out big early – the first inning was the game,” Heatherington stated. “We get up 10-0, we needed to play from there out and we did. It was a good win for us.”

Steubenville’s first three batters worked Harrison Central starter Dustin Redish for walks to launch the early rally. Niko Petrides delivered a single up the middle to plate Bryan Pierro and Dmitri Collaros. Branden Jones earned free pass to load the bases again.

Kai McClurg collected the fifth walk of the inning to make it 3-0. Justin Corsi belted a double to deep center, Petrides and Jones scoring. Kasey Peterson reached via a Huskie error and Lucas Herrington followed with a double to left, making it 6-0.

Singles by Pierro and Collaros along with an Anthony Zorne sacrifice fly scored runs seven, eight and nine. The final tally came on Petrides’ second base knock of the frame.

Big Red sent 13 batters to the plate and collected six hits.

“It’s tough to come back from that,” said first-year Huskie skipper Mike Valesko. “You keep telling yourself there’s plenty of game left, but at the same time, you think back to what you might have done differently. It changes your approach at the plate and in the field.”

Zorne went the distance on the bump to collect the pitching win. The sophomore lefty allowed just four hits (designated hitter Ian Saho had two of the four) and fanned 14 Huskies.

“He did a nice job for us today,” Heatherington commented. “He threw a lot of pitches but also got a lot of strikeouts.”

The fourth-seeded Huskies got their two runs in the fifth. Nick Staten blasted a run-scoring double to left-center and Redish recorded a RBI on his grounder to second.

“When you dig yourself in a hole like we did, it’s hard to come back especially when Zorne is throwing,” Valesko noted. “He is such a good pitcher as it is and they are such a good team. It’s tough to score a couple, let alone try to come back when you are down 10. We were kind of holding on for dear life the rest of the game.”

Brennan Graves, who took over for Redish in the first, managed to silence Big Red’s bats until the sixth. Pierro got things going with an infield single. He scored when Jones singled to right. Graves allowed four hits in four full innings of work and recorded six strikeouts.

“He (Graves) threw real well for us,” Valesko pointed out. “We have a lot of young kinds in our lineup and they were excited to play in the semifinals. They kept fighting and plugging away like I figured they would. I didn’t expect to see any quit in them. It was just tough.”

Petrides paced Big Red’s 10-hit attack with three singles and three RBIs. Pierro and Collaros had two singles apiece.

“Our biggest goal as a team is to improve as a team every day and come together as a team,” Heatherington, who now has 499 career victories, said. “Right now, we have done both. We have to keep improving in order to keep winning.

“We’ve been doing a good job of preparing for a game. The kids have done a good job of getting themselves ready. We sit in the dugout and they get out there and get ready. Lately, we’ve been doing a good job in that area.”

Both teams are scheduled to return to the diamond Monday. Big Red will host Beaver Local while the Huskies, now 7-9, visit St. Clairsville.