Story & Photos By: D.J. WATSON
NH Sports Writer
CADIZ – This past Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over Steubenville Big Red was a big deal for a number of different reasons. For starters, Head Coach Mike Valesko always challenges his players with one of the toughest schedules around, and the Huskies hadn’t beat the annual powerhouse since the Final Four season of 2013. In that time, the juggernaut ran up six straight victories over the Huskies, outscoring them with a commanding 58-12 margin. Additionally, Big Red came into the matchup with a perfect record of 5-0, meaning a Huskies (4-3) victory re-ignited hope of qualifying for the OVAC tournament in a weather-wrecked 2018 season. Finally, the Huskies were coming off of back-to-back deflating defeats at the hands of their rival St. Clairsville. Long story short, Tuesday’s win could change the course of a very soggy season to date.
The Big Red upset at Mazeroski Field propelled the Huskies into a momentum building victory the very next night against a winless Union Local Jets club. In a high scoring affair, Harrison rode a four run first inning and a five run fifth to an 11-8 triumph in the must win matchup. In the fifth, sophomore Andrew Clelland cleared the loaded bases with a triple to right field, scoring Austin Chappell, Colson Dalton, and Chance Hursey to make the game 10-4. Chappell, Dalton, and Hursey all sprayed the diamond with singles to set up the game-breaking sequence, and Clelland would trot home a few pitches later after a Jets pickoff attempt went awry. In the opening half inning, the Huskies labored Union Local pitcher Tyler Kildow to the tune of three singles and a base on balls. Before the Jets (0-5) had even gotten into the batter’s box, they were trailing 4-0. However, that doesn’t mean they simply hung up the batting gloves for the night. The bottom of the fourth inning saw the Huskies 6-2 lead quickly shrink to 6-4, and albeit short-lived, the Jets had really tightened up the scoreboard in a game that seemed the Huskies were in complete control of. Even after a five run Harrison fifth pushed the tally back to a daunting 11-4 mark, the Jets came back in the home half and poked two runners around the bags for two runs. Two more runs came in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Harrison’s five spot in the fifth.
Hursey drove the full two and a half hour haul from the hill against the Jets, picking up the complete game victory for the Huskies, while also registering his first mound “W” of the season. As a team, Harrison outhit Buckeye Eight rival Union Local 14-10, with Logan Tonkovich’s three singles and four RBIs’ leading the effort. J.R. Heavilin, Hursey, Dalton, Chappell, and Clelland all had a multiple hit game, with senior Logan Elliott adding a first inning single for good measure.
Elliott’s pitching performance against Steubenville is another highlight of the busy week for the Huskies. Just like Hursey against the Jets, Elliott was the only Harrison player to toe the rubber against Big Red. It was a game management type of start, as the senior hurler and the Huskies fell behind 1-0 in the top of the second, only to respond to take a 5-1 lead in the fourth and fifth innings. Big Red closed the gap in the sixth to make it 5-3, but Elliott slammed the door in the seventh, matching his classmate Hursey to also pick up his first pitching victory of the year.
Much like the team performance that would come a night later against the Jets, the Huskies outhit Big Red 9-6, and there was no shortage of names to fill the box score. Tonkovich lined two doubles against the Big Red pitching staff of Ryan Neely and Dylan Cunningham. He was joined by Chappell and freshman Kobe Mitchell to complete the trio of multi-hit batters for Valesko. Ronnie Bowers added a double, as Elliott, Heavilin, and Clelland rounded out the Harrison offense in the upset special.
The OVAC 4A standings are surely to look a little different when released Sunday afternoon. The Huskies were buried down in seventh in this season’s original release on April 8th, but a win over an undefeated Big Red squad, and three more favorable matchups at home coming into this weekend should shake things up and place the Huskies back in the thick of the tournament picture.