STEUBENVILLE - Harrison Central's Justin Clifford knows successful baseball programs aren't built overnight.
"We didn't want to end on a down note, but we talked overall about taking a step in the right direction," he said after watching his Huskies drop an 11-2 verdict to Minerva Tuesday in the Division II sectional semifinals at Vacarro Field.
"We talk about it in baseball and basketball. It (building a winning program) is a process," Clifford continued. "I told them it might not come until my kids are playing. The process takes two or three classes. It's a challenge to the kids coming up. You have to work every day to get better. There's a reason why the teams that win keep winning and why the teams that don't win don't."
BASE KNOCK — Harrison Central’s Drew Horn smacks a single in the first inning during the Huskies 11-2 sectional tournament loss to Minerva Tuesday at Vaccaro Field.
-- Fred Younce
With the loss, Harrison finishes at 14-14. Minerva, on the other hand, will return to Jefferson County Friday to battle Cambridge, the tournament's top-seed, in the upper bracket finals.
Lefty Rasheen Mitchell started on the hill for Clifford and held the Lions in check through the first three frames. Minerva scored two in the fourth thanks to RBIs from Tito Ramos and Jantsen Locke. In the fifth, the Lions sent 10 batters to the plate and added five more runs.
Ramos connected for a base hit that drove home two. J. Locke and Chase Petree both had run producing hits.
"Rasheen didn't have his best stuff today," Clifford admitted. "But they battled and had a lot of pitch at bats. There were several times when we had two strikes on them but they were able to get hits. They won the battle."
The Lions got to Mitchell and Nick Pelegreen, who came on the fifth, for 13 hits. J. Locke and Petree finished with three singles, Levi Marshall two doubles and Ramos drove home three runs.
"He (Mitchell) wasn't 100 percent," Clifford continued. "That's certainly not taking any credit away from them. In the first three innings, he seemed to be bringing it. He said he was fine but you could tell he wasn't throwing as well as he did early."
The Huskies scored both of their runs in the sixth. Pelegreen singled, Garrett Sproull drew a walk and Ryan Rose drove them both home with a double. Clifford's club managed just hits off Minerva starter Zack Wade and Ramos, who went to the mound in the fifth.
During his four innings, Wade allowed four hits and fanned four to gain the win.
"We didn't get anything offensively and that's a credit to their kid," Clifford noted. "He threw on two days' rest, so you have to tip your hat to him. He comes in and shuts us down."
Rose paced the Harrison offense with his double and fourth inning single.
Clifford took the time to praise his three seniors (Sproull, Gabe Hyndman and Hunter Yarnell).
"They haven't won a million games, but in my mind, they'll be the three seniors that turned it around and got things going in the right direction," he said.
Minerva 11, Harrison Central 2
Minerva 000 251 3 - 11 13 0
Harrison 000 002 0 - 2 6 0
MINERVA: Wade (WP, 4K, 1BB, 1 HBP) Ramos (5th, 4K, 3BB) and Marshall; Petree 3S, 2RBI; J. Locke 3S, 3RBI; Marshall 2D, 2RBI; Ramos S, 3RBI.
HARRISON (14-14): Mitchell (LP, 4K, 5BB) Pelegreen (5th, 4K, 3BB) and Staten; Rose D, S, 2RBI; Horn S; Mitchell S; Pelegreen S.