By: D.J. WATSON
NH Sports Writer
CADIZ– The Huskies will return to the John Muth Baseball Complex in Mingo Junction this coming Monday night, but this time they will be taking the diamond as Sectional Champions and their opponent will not be the Redskins of Indian Creek. Harrison Central turned the lights off on the Philo Electrics this past Tuesday at Mazeroski Field, clinching the program’s fifth Sectional Championship with the 13-5 victory. Sophomore Andrew Clelland tossed 6.1 innings, striking out four Philo batters from the hill to earn his third mound victory of the season. Offensively, the Huskies (4-seed) shook of their skid that closed the regular season, outhitting the Electrics 10-6 and running up a team-total of ten RBI’s.
“I’m really excited for the team to be able to keep playing and move on. This group has had a lot of success over the years because they care for each other and care about the program,” Head Coach Mike Valesko commented following the victory.
The Huskies buried Philo’s power lines early. In the home half of the first inning, Valesko’s club posted a five spot to set the tone from the go. Five run innings are impressive enough, but the Huskies did all the scoring in the opening frame with two outs already in the books. Seemingly stunned, the Electrics gave up three more in the second, and before some fans were settled into their seats, the Huskies had sprinted out to an 8-0 advantage. “We did a great job against Philo landing the first punch and we really never let up. We’ll need that mindset to continue throughout the survive-and-advance nature of the postseason,” Valesko stated.
The scoreboard operator was certainly busy, as Philo got on the board in the third with two runs, only to have the Huskies tally up another to make it 9-2 through three innings. After a scoreless fourth, the Duncan Falls unit showed some late game life, crossing two to cut the lead down to 9-4 in the fifth.
When the Huskies came to the plate in the same inning, the outcome of the Co-Sectional Championship was no longer in question. Kobe Mitchell, Chance Hursey, Logan Elliott, and Andrew Clelland all brought smiles back to the dugout as they made their way from the home plate circle back to the dugout. Four touches pushed the lead back to 13-4, and aside from a mop-up run in the seventh, the scoring was finished for both clubs.
Clelland was a perfect three for three in the batter’s box, punching out three singles and an RBI in his two-way effort. Senior Logan Elliott, who signed to play at the next level with Bethany College just hours before first pitch, also had a big day. Elliott went three of four at the dish, all singles with an RBI and two runs scored to his credit. Hursey, J.R. Heavilin, Caden Arbaugh, and Ronnie Bowers spayed the chart with a hit each. Bowers and Arbaugh both ripped doubles early in the game that sparked the offense and helped the Huskies quickly forget about their tough final week of the regular season.
Looking ahead, there will be some familiar faces in the dugout across the way when the Huskies take the field in the Eastern District semi-final on Monday. The St. Clairsville Red Devils have proven to be a thorn in the Huskies side. Earlier this season, the Buckeye Eight Champs put a hurting on the Huskies, but that was then and this is now. Sandwiched in between a slow and soggy start and a late season skid, Valesko’s squad played their fair share of solid baseball. It is this point in the year that playing a sturdy slate of games should be paying out the ultimate dividends, and if the Philo game was any indication, Harrison supporters should be rather optimistic about those postseason payouts.
Valesko was quick to give special credit for the motivation of his club coming into the postseason. Trent Luyster, a 2001 Harrison Central Graduate who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and played at Ohio State, sent in a quick message for the team before the game. “The boys received a clip from Trent earlier in the day and it really set the tone for the team. We take so much pride in the players and coaches who built this program, and we owe them nothing but our best effort every time we take the field. I certainly want to thank Trent, it meant a lot to our team” the manager commented.
Although it won’t be the hometown boys playing, Mazeroski Field will still see at least one baseball game this coming week. Zanesville and Steubenville will square off in the other District semi-final at Sally Buffalo Park, and the winner will meet the winner of the matchup between the Red Devils and Huskies for a District title. While the site is undetermined as of now, a Regional berth will be on the line when the Eastern District Championship takes place Wednesday May 16.