ZANESVILLE — The thin line separating the thrill of a win and the agony of defeat is so slim, there are times when a team can encompass both emotions during the course of a single game.
Such was the case in the Division II regional final game for the Big Red baseball team on Friday at Gant Municipal Stadium. After starting the game on fire, Steubenville’s hopes of a trip to the state’s final four were doused when Canal Winchester gained momentum in the final four innings, scoring nine unanswered runs en route to a 9-5 victory.
The loss left both the Steubenville team, coaches, and fans in a state of shock, as what had seemed like a sure win had changed directions so quickly.
“It was fun,” Big Red head coach Fred Heatherington said of his team’s season. “These guys gave us a great run. We had four great seniors that inherited a really young team and they got them to play the way that Big Red plays.
“When you are a senior, it is tough to inherit young guys, because young guys make mistakes. But our young guys made mistakes early in the season and they became players.
“Our seniors have to take the credit for that, because they kept us in the game and kept our young guys playing.”
Early in the game, it looked as though the Big Red seniors would live to play another day.
The very first pitch of the game was ripped into left field by Big Red freshman Anthony Pierro for a leadoff single. Following an error that allowed Angelo Iachini to reach base, Jeremy Banks smacked a double to center field, driving in Pierro for the game’s first run.
Steubenville was not done in the frame. With two outs, Jordan McIntyre hit a single which allowed two more runs to cross the plate.
Just like that, Steubenville had a 3-0 heading into the bottom of the first inning.
Banks seemed to be in a rhythm early on the mound, knifing through the Indian lineup through the first two innings.
In the top of the third frame, Steubenville added to its lead. Banks led off with a single line drive single to center field. With one out, Jordan Banks banged a single into center field, putting runners at first and second base.
After a wild pitch allowed the runners to move to second and third, Winchester’s Drew Dosch intentionally walked McIntyre to load the bases.
A fielding error allowed a run to cross the plate and, with two outs, David Anderson hit a run-scoring single into shallow center field, extending the lead to 5-0.
As the Big Red fanbase stood and applauded the excellent start, Canal Winchester refocused in its dugout.
Heatherington felt as though his team left some runs on the field in the first three innings.
“We had them on the ropes. They had a sophomore pitcher on the mound and we had a chance to break it open,” Heatherington said. “We didn’t get the big runs in that we needed to carry us throughout the rest of the game.
“We were aggressive at the plate early in the game. But, I thought we left too many runners on. That ended up coming back to haunt us. We scored five runs, but we probably left five or six guys on base.”
In the bottom of the third inning, the Indians finally struck. After back-to-back walks to start the inning, Joey Butler hit a one-out single to bring home Winchester’s first run of the game. That was followed by a single to shallow left by Michael Romanowski which cut the Big Red lead to 5-2.
With one out and two runners on base, Wes White hit a shot into deep center field, allowing both runs to score. In what seemed like the snap of a finger, the Big Red lead had been cut to 5-4.
The momentum shift was palpable, as an confident Big Red team was suddenly left clinging to a minimal lead and Winchester became the aggressor.
“They had one big inning and we got behind on some hitters,” Heatherington said. “They were able to get guys on base and when they can get some guys on base, they’re a dangerous team.
“We re-grouped and got out of the inning. But, that one big inning changed the momentum of the game and we really never got it back.”
Both teams changed pitchers, as Big Red brought in Phil Gilmore and Winchester countered with Bryan Bogart.
Heatherington knew that his team would eventually have to face Bogart, the left-handed ace for the Indians.
“We knew he threw all fastballs and that he threw hard. We have seen that all year, though,” Heatherington said. “We see every team’s best pitcher throughout the season and we expect that.”
Both hurlers did well to quiet the opponents’ bat for two innings, but in the bottom of the sixth inning, Winchester made its move. With just six outs separating Big Red from a trip to Columbus, Steubenville could not maintain the lead.
Cory Spelman, Dosch, and White all had RBI hits in the frame, as Winchester exploded for five runs to take a 9-5 lead.
That left Big Red just three outs to get back into the game and Bogart continued his excellence, striking out the final two batters of the game. He picked up the win, while Gilmore took the defeat for Big Red.
“We just didn’t put guys on base enough late in the game to get them in,” Heatherington said after the final out was recorded.
Heatherington also credited his team for fighting back this season, after some devastating injuries that may have derailed most squads.
“Those are the kind of kids we have at Big Red. When you get your chance, you have to make it happen and we had some guys do that,” Heatherington said.
Big Red finished the season with a stellar 22-7 record.
“It was a great run and it was a fun run,” Heatherington explained. “A lot of people didn’t think we could get as far as we did and we proved a lot of people wrong. That is a credit to our players.”
Indians 9, Big Red 5
Steubenville 302 000 0 — 5 8 2
Winchester 004 005 x — 9 8 2
STEUBENVILLE (): Je. Banks (4 1/3 innings, 4K, 5BB), Gilmore LP (1 2/3 innings, 1K, 2BB) and Iachini; Je. Banks 1B, 2B, RBI; McIntyre 1B, 2RBI; Anderson 2-1B, RBI; Pierro 1B; Jo. Banks 1B; Westlake 1B.
WINCHESTER: Dosch (2 2/3 innings 1K, 1BB), Bogart WP (4 1/3 innings, 4K, 2BB) and Griffith; Dosch 2B, 3RBI; Steube 2B, 2RBI; Butler 2-1B, RBI; Mi. Romanowski 2-1B, RBI; White 1B, RBI; Rose 1B; Spelman RBI.