STEUBENVILLE — As both the Edison and Big Red fans rose to their collective feet, two baseball teams’ seasons hung in the balance in the bottom of the seventh inning of an Ohio Division II sectional final at Vaccaro Field on Saturday.
In a clash featuring two of the best teams in the area, only one could emerge and move on to the next round. The game seemed destined to come down to the final pitch, as the two teams did not fail to live up to the considerable hype.
With Big Red clinging to a 4-2 lead, Edison had men on second and third base with just one out. As it had done all game, however, reliever Phil Gilmore and the Steubenville defense forced Edison into two ground ball outs and the crimson and black held on for the 4-2 victory.
The wild finish was exhausting for Big Red head coach Fred Heatherington.
“It was good for the fans but not good for the coaches,” Heatherington said jokingly after the dramatic victory. “I’m proud of our kids.
“We haven’t won a sectional in three years. The way that these guys have worked, they deserve to be a champion and today we are a champion. But, Monday we will come back and get ready for the district.”
Early on, it was Edison who took control of the contest.
In the bottom of the first inning, after the Wildcats’ Cory Wickham reached base on a single, Drew Powley blasted a two-run home run over the fence, giving Edison a 2-0 advantage.
After Big Red (20-6) came up empty in the top half of the second inning, Heatherington inserted Gilmore to relieve starting pitcher T.J. DeChristopher.
While Gilmore held the Edison bats in check, Steubenville’s offense showed signs of life in the top of the third inning. Caleb Westlake drew a one-out walk and was knocked in on Angelo Ianchini’s single to center field, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
After another scoreless inning by the Wildcats in the bottom of the third inning, a Big Red rally erupted in the top of the fourth frame.
Anthony Gossett reached base with a leadoff single to left field. After an an error allowed Jordan Banks to take first base, Big Red junior Jordan McIntyre smacked a run scoring double off of the center field wall, tying the game 2-2.
A wild pitch by Edison pitcher Corbin Cline led to Banks crossing the plate. Finally, a sacrifice fly by Mitch Bainbridge brought home McIntyre, extending the Big Red lead to 4-2.
“We’ve been living on the big inning most of the year,” Heatherington explained. “It is tough to do because, if you don’t get it, you are in big trouble. But, our kids battled at the plate and we got timely hits. That is what we try to do.
“Our kids hung tough. We had to battle back after we got down 2-0 really quickly in the first inning. We were able to stay in the game mentally and we made the plays that we had to make.”
Edison head coach Mike Collopy wanted to make sure that his team remained calm and did not allow the Big Red rally to kill its spirit.
“It was just one of those things where we wanted to keep our heads in it,” Collopy said. “We preach winning innings, so we just wanted to win the next inning and move on from there.”
However, as Gilmore and the Big Red defense continued to put a halt to any scoring opportunities for the Wildcats, Collopy’s squad began running out of innings.
With that one final surge in the bottom of the seventh inning, Edison had its best chance to tie or win the game. Derek Trifonoff’s leadoff single was followed by Nate Spears reaching base via walk.
Andy Stine moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, but Nick Davidson and Wickham recorded outs to end the inning and the game.
Collopy was quick to credit Gilmore and the Big Red defense for handling the pressure well.
“Our hats go off to Big Red, because their pitcher did a really good job in a very tough situation,” Collopy said. “He was able to throw strikes and get outs.”
Heatherington was most impressed with his pitching and defense.
“Phil (Gilmore) came in and did a heck of a job for us. He made them put the ball in play and we made the plays in the field. That is what we have to do to be successful,” Heatherington said.
Gilmore finished the game with no strikeouts and four walks in the victory. The Big Red defense gave up no errors, making outstanding play after play to hold the Edison offense at bay.
“We’ve been practicing a lot of the plays that we had to make in the field today,” Heatherington explained. “That really helped us and it came through for us.”
Collopy gave credit to his team for the effort that they gave, both during the season and in Saturday’s game.
“We are extremely proud of our team and the way that they played. We told them that they have nothing to be ashamed of,” Collopy said.
“Basically what it came down to was that they got the hits when they needed to and we didn’t get the hits in places where we needed them.”
Edison’s Cline recorded no strikeouts and two walks in his six innings of work.
“He has been pitching really well for us,” Collopy said of Cline. “We made the decision to give him the ball today in this game and he did not let us down. It was just a situation where they got the job done when they needed to and we just didn’t get it in certain spots.”
Edison finishes the season with a 17-9 record.
Meanwhile, Big Red now moves on to the Ohio Division II district final to be held at River View High School at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’ll get refocused on Monday,” Heatherington said.
“We have a tough game coming up with West Holmes. They beat a good Dover team 2-0, but we are playing well and that is all we can ask for.
“Whoever plays the best will win. Hopefully it is us, but we still have some work to do on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get ready for Thursday.”
(Newman can be contacted at email@example.com)
Big Red 4, Wildcats 2
Steubenville 001 300 0 — 4 8 0
Edison 200 000 0 — 2 6 1
STEUBENVILLE (20-6): DeChristopher (1 inning, 1K, 1BB), Gilmore WP (6 innings, 0K, 4BB) and Iachini; McIntyre 2-1B, 2B, RBI; Iachini 1B, RBI; Pierro 2B; Je. Banks 1B; Gossett 1B; Anderson 1B; Bainbridge RBI.
EDISON (17-9): Cline LP (6 innings, 0K, 2BB), Busana (1 inning, 0K, 1BB) and Spears; Powley HR, 2RBI; Davidson 1B; Wickham 1B; Matics 1B; McCoy 1B; Trifonoff 1B.